Graymail is the threatened revelation of state secrets, in order to manipulate legal proceedings. It is distinct from blackmail, which may include threats of revelation against, and manipulation of, any private individual. Graymail is used as a defense tactic, forcing the government to drop a case to avoid revealing national secrets.

It has two meanings:

1) To straightforwardly blackmail the government, forcing them to drop the case using the threat that if the trial proceeds the defendant will reveal classified information he or she already knows.

2) To request use of classified material, e.g. as evidence, in the trial. The defendant speculates that the government will be unwilling to make the material fully available to the case, and that this will raise the possibility, in the eyes of the judge or jury, that the unreleased material might clear the defendant, making it difficult to prove guilt.

The Classified Information Procedures Act (CIPA), also known as the Graymail Law, of 1980 was designed to counter the second tactic above by allowing judges to review classified material in secret, so that the prosecution can proceed without fear of publicly disclosing sensitive intelligence.


John D. Cline was a defense attorney for Oliver North and successfully used graymail to dismiss the most serious charges against North (see Iran-Contra Affair). "Among his detractors, Cline is what is known as a "graymail" specialist" Cline was more recently hired by Lewis Libby's defense team, where he requested more than 10 months of the President's Daily Brief (PDB). In spite of this Libby was found guilty on four of five charges.

Katharine Gun was a translator for Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), a British intelligence agency. In 2003, she became publicly known for leaking top-secret information to the press concerning alleged illegal activities by the United States in their push for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. She was charged under section 1 of the Official Secrets Act, 1989, however the case was dropped when the prosecution declined to offer evidence.

See also


Search another word or see graymailon Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2015, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature