Periodically I trade emails with some people within the ATF. I recently noticed they have a rather strongly worded restriction on the use of the email attached to each message. This restriction is identical regardless of the person I received it from within the ATF. I admit my sample size is small but it does include people in significantly different geographical area.
The restriction is (bold in the original):
******* NOTICE: This e-mail message and any attached files are intended solely for the use of the addressee(s) named above in connection with official business. This communication may contain Sensitive But Unclassified information that may be statutorily or otherwise prohibited from being released without appropriate approval. Any review, use, or dissemination of this e-mail message and any attached file(s) in any form outside of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives or the Department of Justice without express authorization is strictly prohibited.
I didn’t remember it always being that strongly worded so I went looking at previous emails to see if it had changed. It had.
The notice above first appeared on March 29, 2011. A previous email from the same person on March 23, 2010 (the previous year) had this restriction (bold in the original):
******* NOTICE: This electronic transmission is confidential and intended only for the person(s) to whom it is addressed. If you have received this transmission in error, please notify the sender by return e-mail and destroy this message in its entirety (including all attachments).
So sometime in that year (and six days) between March 2010 and March 2011 the notice changed. My hypothesis is that the leaking of various emails associated with operation Fast and Furious caused a review of the restriction and a rewording which was much more strict.
The question I have (calling all lawyers!) is; Does the restriction have any legal weight in use against me or is it merely a legal bluff? For example, am I at risk for merely revealing the restriction even though I did not reveal the other contents of the emails? What if I were to reveal to the public the gist of one or more email discussions that clearly was not “sensitive information” but might be somewhat embarrassing to the ATF?