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1917 Act Meet 2010 Wiki Leaks and Freedom of Speech, Take Heed

1917 Act Meet 2010 Wiki Leaks and Freedom of Speech, Take Heed


Legislation passed in June 1917 provided penalties of 20 years imprisonment and fines up to $10,000 for those convicted of interfering with military recruitment.  The law also authorized the Postmaster General to remove treasonable or seditious material from the mail.

In 1919, Wilson appointed a new attorney general, A. Mitchell Palmer, a Pennsylvania attorney with liberal credentials, including past support for workers’ rights and women’s suffrage. Palmer, however, reversed his views. In April, the Post Office discovered 38 bombs that hade been mailed to leading American politicians and capitalists.

How the Government Can Engage in Serious Aggression Against the People of the United States

– This week, Senators Joe Lieberman and Dianne Feinstein engaged in acts of serious aggression against their own constituents, and the American people in general. They both invoked the 1917 Espionage Act and urged its use in going after Julian Assange. For good measure, Lieberman extended his invocation of the Espionage Act to include a call to use it to investigate the New York Times, which published WikiLeaks’ diplomatic cables. Reports yesterday suggest that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder may seek to invoke the Espionage Act against Assange.

Those calling for Julian Assange’s criminalization include:
1. Rep. Candice Miller, 2. Jonah Goldberg, Journalist, 3. Christian Whiton, Journalist
4. Bill O’Reilly, Fox News Journalist, 5. Sarah Palin, Member of the Republican Party, former candidate, 6. Mike Huckabee, Politician, 8. Prof. Tom Flanagan, 9. Rep. Peter King, 10. Tony Shaffer,
11. Rick Santorum, 12. Rep. Dan Lugren, 13. Jeffrey T. Kuhner, Journalist The Washington Times, 14. Rep. Virginia Foxx, 15. Sen. Kit Bond, Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, 16. Sen. Joe Liberman, 17. Sen. Charles Schumer, 18. Marc Thiessen, Columnist


These two Senators, and the rest of the Congressional and White House leadership who are coming forward in support of this appalling development, are cynically counting on Americans’ ignorance of their own history — an ignorance that is stoked and manipulated by those who wish to strip rights and freedoms from the American people. They are manipulatively counting on Americans to have no knowledge or memory of the dark history of the Espionage Act — a history that should alert us all at once to the fact that this Act has only ever been used — was designed deliberately to be used — specifically and viciously to silence people like you and me.

The Espionage Act was crafted in 1917 – because President Woodrow Wilson wanted a war and, faced with the troublesome First Amendment, wished to criminalize speech critical of his war. In the run-up to World War One, there were many ordinary citizens — educators, journalists, publishers, civil rights leaders, union activists — who were speaking out against US involvement in the war. The Espionage Act was used to round these citizens by the thousands for the newly minted ‘crime’ of their exercising their First Amendment Rights. 

I predicted in 2006 that the forces that wish to strip American citizens of their freedoms, so as to benefit from a profitable and endless state of war — forces that are still powerful in the Obama years, and even more powerful now that the Supreme Court decision striking down limits on corporate contributions to our leaders has taken effect –


Always the issue of national security is invoked as the reason for this proliferating legislation. The outcome? A hydra that breeds fear. Under similar laws in Germany in the early thirties, it became a form of ‘espionage’ and ‘treason’ to criticize the Nazi party, to listen to British radio programs, to joke about the fuhrer, or to read cartoons that mocked the government. Communist Russia in the 30′s, East Germany in the 50′s, and China today all use parallel legislation to call criticism of the government — or whistleblowing — ‘espionage’ and ‘treason’, and ‘legally’ imprison or even execute journalists, editors, and human rights activists accordingly.

I call on all American citizens to rise up and insist on repeal of the Espionage Act immediately. We have little time to waste. The Assange assault is theater of a particularly deadly kind, and America will not recover from the use of the Espionage Act as a cudgel to threaten journalists, editors and news outlets with.more

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