Article 101 covers the incorrect use of the countersign or parole. When an enlisted member discloses the parole or countersign to a person who is not authorized to receive it, he violates article 101. This article also covers incidents when an incorrect countersign is given by an authorized enlisted member to another who is entitled to receive it and use it. These are offenses that can be committed only during wartime. If found guilty, the accused is given the punishment that is determined through a court martial process.

There are different situations covered under this article as follows: disclosure of the countersign or parole to unauthorized persons; giving of a wrong countersign or parole to authorized persons.

The critical components of this article are as follows:

a) Countersign incorrect or improper use- Disclosure of countersign or parole to an unauthorized person


  • That the accused revealed a specific countersign or parole to a specific person.
  • That the receiver was not authorized to receive the countersign or parole.

Maximum Punishment:

The accused faces death or other lawful punishment if he is found guilty of violating article 101.

b) Giving an incorrect or different countersign or parole from the one authorized and required to be given


  • That, during wartime, the accused was fully aware that he had the authority and permission to reveal a specific countersign or parole.
  • That a specific person had the authority to receive this countersign/ parole and make use of it.
  • That at a specific place and time, the accused revealed a specific countersign/ parole to the authorized person.
  • That this given countersign/ parole was not the same as the one the accused was permitted and required to disclose.

Maximum Punishment:

Death or other lawful punishment is the maximum punishment for those guilty of violating article 101.

Explanation of Terms used in Article 101

  • The word 'countersign' refers to a signal, word, procedure that is given to sentinels to ensure that only authorized persons pass through the lines. This signal, procedure or word is to be kept secret and known only to select persons who can enter a specific area to prevent breach of security.
  • The word 'parole' refers to a word that is used to verify the countersign which is known only to commanders or those responsible for inspecting the guards.

To learn more about this punitive article refer to the Manual for Courts Martial.


  • Circumstantial evidence is typically admissible during trial to establish knowledge.
  • During war, the class or group of persons who have the authority to know the countersign/ parole may vary continuously. To prove that the accused knowingly made improper use of the parole or countersign, it is necessary to prove that he acted against the general or specific orders he was expected to follow.
  • By military law, it is deemed to be the accused person's responsibility to ensure at his peril that the person seeking to know the countersign or parole is entitled to receive the information.
  • The accused is deemed guilty irrespective of his motive in divulging the parole or countersign.
  • The accused cannot defend himself by stating that negligence or ignorance was the reason behind his revealing the countersign or parole to a person who did not have authority to receive it.
  • The accused may be found guilty of violating Article 101 irrespective of how the recipient received the countersign/ parole- whether the accused passed it on as part of his regular duties or the recipient got the password in any other way.


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Joseph L. Jordan is a UCMJ lawyer who travels around the globe to represent service members in military criminal defense matters. He is an accomplished, experienced military attorney who specializes in defending ALL service members against violations of the UCMJ.