The Espionage Act of 1917 was written due to World War I. It was pushed by then President Woodrow Wilson in a letter to Congress.
President Woodrow Wilson, in his December 7, 1915 State of the Union address, asked Congress for the legislation:
There are citizens of the United States, I blush to admit, born under other flags but welcomed under our generous naturalization laws to the full freedom and opportunity of America, who have poured the poison of disloyalty into the very arteries of our national life; who have sought to bring the authority and good name of our Government into contempt, to destroy our industries wherever they thought it effective for their vindictive purposes to strike at them, and to debase our politics to the uses of foreign intrigue …
I urge you to enact such laws at the earliest possible moment and feel that in doing so I am urging you to do nothing less than save the honor and self-respect of the nation. Such creatures of passion, disloyalty, and anarchy must be crushed out. They are not many, but they are infinitely malignant, and the hand of our power should close over them at once. They have formed plots to destroy property, they have entered into conspiracies against the neutrality of the Government, they have sought to pry into every confidential transaction of the Government in order to serve interests alien to our own. It is possible to deal with these things very effectually. I need not suggest the terms in which they may be dealt with
It was to deter those who were disloyal to the United States and was passing on sescret information such as battle plans etc. It was not written to punish the publication of leaks. Unfortunately, it has been pushed as such by our Congress and Media to discourage whistle blowers from sharing information that they feel is unconstitutional or just plain wrong.
Under the Obama administration seven individuals were prosecuted under this Act including Private Benjamin (now known as Chelsea) Manning and Edward Snowden for taking information and blowing the whistle on our corrupt government to Julian Assange and Wikileaks. On July 30, 2013 Manning was found guilty and was to serve 35 years in prison, the longest ever handed out. In June of 2013, Edward Snowden was charged with “unauthorized communication of national defense information” and “willful communication of classified intelligence with an unauthorized person”. However, Snowden sought political asylum in Russia and remains there to this day. Manning was pardoned by President Obama days before Barrack left office.
The question that these individuals raised was whether publishers of leaks were in danger of prosecution. Many have called for the arrest of Wikileaks editor, publisher and creator Julian Assange under this act and the FDAA act of 2012. They call him a spy and a “cyber terrorist” and have called for the extradition of Julian to the US to face charges. Th problem with this is by prosecuting Wikileaks and it’s staff under this act, then other media outlets must come under fire including the New York Times, Washington Post and CNN as they have also published leaks. In fact, any publisher of said leaks would be at risk of serving time.
The fight against this has and always will be the Constitution of the United States and the First Amendment which specifically gives rights to freedom of speech and free press. Many defense lawyers has used this as a premises for the rights of individuals prosecuted under the Espionage Act.
I feel that prosecuting a publisher or journalist for exposing material given them by a whistle blower should be covered by the Constitution or our country will become tyrranical and a police state. If a person cannot expose corruption in the organization or publish said leaks, our country will be no better than Nazi Germany was. I have enclosed a petition to drop all charges or inquiries into Wikileaks and it’s publisher Julian Assange. Please sign and verify your signature via email if you agree.
Assange Petition to the White House