Let's talk about the espionage act
“I believe in free speech, in war as well as in peace,” Eugene Debs told the jury, during his trial 100 years ago. “If the Espionage Law stands, then the Constitution of the United States is dead.” pic.twitter.com/640nAPYG5A
— jeremy scahill (@jeremyscahill) May 23, 2019
Here’s the thing about President Obama’s war on whistleblowers: In bringing espionage charges in nine cases involving disclosures or alleged misuse of classified information, the current administration has set a floor, rather than a ceiling, on the number and types of whistleblower espionage cases a future President can bring.
And here’s another thing: With leaders of both political parties having either kept silent or cheered on the Obama administration’s unprecedented crackdown on whistleblowers, who in high position in Congress would have one shred of moral authority or credibility to challenge a future president’s excesses under the Espionage Act? On the question of keeping American citizens in the dark and of punishing whistleblowers who dare to enlighten them, we truly have bipartisan authoritarianism.
And then a third thing: Don’t count much on major U.S. news media for any meaningful oversight of, and opposition to, the treatment of whistleblowers under future presidents. The mainstream press and big-name journalists — with some intermittent, notable exceptions such as these two New York Times editorials and this Newark Star-Ledger editorial — have largely ignored the jail-the-whistleblowers policies of the Obama administration. Or, worse, as we’ve reported before, some of the most prominent names in the media joined elected and appointed government officials in calling for harsh penalties for Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange and Wikileaks, and others whom they claim (without proof) to have endangered U.S. national security by providing classified information to the news media.
With his Justice Department having produced three times as many Espionage Act indictments for classified document disclosure as all other administrations combined since the passage of that legislation back in 1917, Obama has opened the door for his successors to continue — and even expand — the assault on national security state whistleblowers who act in the public interest.
How long will it be until people are once again prosecuted under the Sedition Act?
The 1918 Sedition Act prohibited a person, under pain of $10,000 and 20 years imprisonment, to ‘utter, print, write or publish any disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language about the form of government of the United States, or the Constitution of the United States, or any language intended to encourage resistance to the United States, or to promote the cause of its enemies.'”
“Those who spoke or wrote against the war were arrested in droves. Over fifteen hundred people were charged under these laws for the crime of expressing an opinion the government did not agree with. One socialist, Rose Pastor Stokes, was sentenced to ten years in prison for telling an all-female audience that she was for the people, while the government was for the profiteers. Eugene V. Debs, a prominent socialist leader, was sentenced to ten years in a federal penitentiary for a rather academic speech analyzing the economic causes of war.” The American Socialist Society was convicted under the Espionage Act merely for publishing a book by Scott Nearing, The Great Madness.
After the never ending gift of 9/11 Bush signed the Patriot act.
Hastily passed 45 days after 9/11 in the name of national security, the Patriot Act was the first of many changes to surveillance laws that made it easier for the government to spy on ordinary Americans by expanding the authority to monitor phone and email communications, collect bank and credit reporting records, and track the activity of innocent Americans on the Internet. While most Americans think it was created to catch terrorists, the Patriot Act actually turns regular citizens into suspects.
The biggest betrayal of this country happened when Obama signed the NDAA in 2012
The US is sleepwalking into becoming a police state, where, like a pre-Magna Carta monarch, the president can lock up anyone.
Yes, the worst things you may have heard about the National Defense Authorization Act, which has formally ended 254 years of democracy in the United States of America, and driven a stake through the heart of the bill of rights, are all really true. The act passed with large margins in both the House and the Senate on the last day of last year – even as tens of thousands of Americans were frantically begging their representatives to secure Americans' habeas corpus rights in the final version.
It does indeed – contrary to the many flatout-false form letters I have seen that both senators and representatives sent to their constituents, misleading them about the fact that the NDAA destroys their due process rights. Under the act, anyone can be described as a 'belligerent". As the New American website puts it,
"[S]ubsequent clauses (Section 1022, for example) unlawfully give the president the absolute and unquestionable authority to deploy the armed forces of the United States to apprehend and to indefinitely detain those suspected of threatening the security of the 'homeland'. In the language of this legislation, these people are called 'covered persons'.
"The universe of potential 'covered persons' includes every citizen of the United States of America. Any American could one day find himself or herself branded a 'belligerent' and thus subject to the complete confiscation of his or her constitutional civil liberties and nearly never-ending incarceration in a military prison."
And with a new bill now being introduced to make it a crime to protest in a way that disrupts any government process – or to get close to anyone with secret service protection – the push to legally lock down the United Police States is in full force.
Overstated? Let's be clear: the NDAA grants the president the power to kidnap any American anywhere in the United States and hold him or her in prison forever without trial. The president's own signing statement, incredibly, confirmed that he had that power. As I have been warning since 2006: there is not a country on the planet that you can name that has ever set in place a system of torture, and of detention without trial, for an "other", supposedly external threat that did not end up using it pretty quickly on its own citizens.
And Guantánamo has indeed come home: Guantánamo is in our front yards now and our workplaces; it did not even take much more than half a decade. On 1 March, the NDAA will go into effect – if a judicial hearing scheduled for this week does not block it – and no one in America, no US citizen, will be safe from being detained indefinitely – in effect, "disappeared.".
Of course of all people who should have, but wasn't charged under the espionage act was Hillary Radham Clinton for using her private email server.
Hillary Clinton’s email scandal may go down as one of the most superficially reported events in recent history. Aside from the poor quality of most news coverage, journalists also obscured the broader lesson of how political elites manipulate national security laws for their own benefit.