If you have ever taken a good look at the Espionage Act, one thing is clear, it still doesn’t make sense how they can charge a non-citizen like Julian Assange. Let me explain…
I found some interesting information on the passing of this law and how it came to be in 1917. On Wikipedia, found here, it states:
An Act to punish acts of interference with the foreign relations, and the foreign commerce of the United States, to punish espionage, and better to enforce the criminal laws of the United States, and for other purposes.
It was intended to prohibit interference with military operations or recruitment, to prevent insubordination in the military, and to prevent the support of United States enemies during wartime.
The Espionage Act of 1917 was passed, along with the Trading with the Enemy Act, just after the United States entered World War I in April 1917. It was based on the Defense Secrets Act of 1911, especially the notions of obtaining or delivering information relating to “national defense” to a person who was not “entitled to have it”, itself based on an earlier British Official Secrets Act. The Espionage Act law imposed much stiffer penalties than the 1911 law, including the death penalty.
This is where it gets tricky and makes me think that you cannot charge a foreigner under this act. Even Woodrow Wilson speaks of “citizens” in his 1915 State of the Union asking for this law to be passed.
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.
Looking into other times the word “citizen” appears in that wikipedia article I found this about an East German scientist’s 1980s case — from same wikipedia article, different “1980s” section:
Alfred Zehe, a scientist from East Germany, was arrested in Boston in 1983 after being caught in a government-run sting operation in which he had reviewed classified U.S. government documents in Mexico and East Germany. His attorneys contended without success that the indictment was invalid, arguing that the Espionage Act does not cover the activities of a foreign citizen outside the United States. Zehe then pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 8 years in prison. He was released in June 1985 as part of an exchange of four East Europeans held by the U.S. for 25 people held in Poland and East Germany, none of them American.
Of course, they may use this as a precedent in charging Assange.
When I clicked on the wikipedia article about Alfred Zehe himself, it only got more Orwellian what the Reagan admin and our kangaroo courts and our 1980s version of the Deep State, did, in this sting…it wasn’t even a sting against him and he was just obeying his own country to just have a look at and assess the (fake, “sting”) so called documents :
In 1982, Zehe was summoned from Puebla to the East German embassy in Mexico City to meet with East German officials, who sought Zehe’s expertise regarding recently acquired documents on sonar technology. Unbeknownst to Zehe [or them] at the time, the documents had been purchased by East German agents from an undercover U.S. operative in Washington, D.C.
The U.S. operative, in an FBI-managed sting operation, had gone shopping on Washington’s embassy row “to lure a spy from one or another of the Communist embassies to come out and take the bait.” After purchasing the documents, the East Germans realized they lacked the expertise in Washington to evaluate the intelligence, so they called on Zehe in Mexico City. There, he reviewed the documents, which turned out to be outdated information on submarine sonar-detection, and returned to his teaching post in Puebla.
On November 3, 1983, Zehe was arrested while attending the annual symposium of the American Vacuum Society in Boston. He was subsequently charged under the Espionage Act with conspiracy to obtain classified documents related to military technology and deliver them to a foreign government.
The decision to arrest him at the conference with television cameras on hand was designed to fuel public awareness of the dangers of scientific espionage. The FBI later asked the American Vacuum Society to furnish it with the names of the 2600 attendees at the Boston meeting and threatened to subpoena the information. The Society declined but replied that it would comply with such a subpoena. The FBI did not pursue the matter.
“[Zehe’s defense attorney Harvey] Silverglate claimed that under any reasonable interpretation of the Espionage Act, Zehe had not committed a crime.Zehe did not purchase the documents at issue in the case, but only reviewed documents presented to him in Mexico City, Silverglate asserted. He also told how at Robert Mueller‘s direction, prosecutors used “national security” as a reason to withhold documents from the defense even though they were prepared to let the East Germans review them. Silverglate further contended that the indictment was invalid because the Espionage Act does not cover espionage conducted by a foreign citizen outside the United States.
On January 29, 1985, U.S. District Judge David S. Nelson denied Zehe’s motion to dismiss the case, ruling that the Espionage Act could be applied extraterritorially to both citizens and noncitizens because of the [we all know what he’s gonna invoke as usual -HB] threat to national security that espionage poses.
U.S. prosecutors then offered to allow Zehe to defect to the United States, where he could take residence and continue his academic career.Despite being closely watched by the East German government, Zehe accepted this offer and agreed to defect. Shortly thereafter, however, the U.S. government refused to accept Zehe as a bona fide defector. He was left with the option of either pleading guilty and hoping for a light sentence, or pleading not-guilty and testing the American legal system.
On February 25, 1985, Zehe entered a plea of guilty.He submitted to a full debriefing in exchange for the promise of a light sentence. He was sentenced to 8 years in prison.
1.Mueller being a totalitarian who denies the defense access to the documents just to hurt the accused, but doubly insane since those were documents that the U.S. government was more than happy to have East Germany officials (“the enemy”) look at, but defense team wasn’t allowed to look at them..??
2. The big picture is what? He was a citizen of another country, obeying the orders of that country’s government officials who asked for his expert opinion on documents that they showed to him and they want to get this guy under the Espionage Act?? Even if the documents were real and stolen (rather than in fact, as they were, fake ones for the “fishing expedition” by the Deep State ‘sting’ operation] I’d argue it’s still 100% unfair and INSANE. You’re going to charge the citizen of another country for obeying their own government for just LOOKING at a document, as guilty of the “treason” of the Espionage Act?? That’s nuts.
You could have a citizen of some dictatorship like Qatar or Saudi Arabia who is a scientist and the Saudi/Qatari officials say, “Hey, we want your expert opinion on this [U.S.] document” and they just look at the docs and give their expert view…and that somehow makes it ok for the U.S. to charge that scientist/citizen of another country with “treason against the U.S.” ? That is incredibly insane and unjust in my opinion…
One thought on “Julian Assange And Facts About the Espionage Act”
I can’t stop thinking of Trump when he was running for president . Oh how i like wikileaks (upon receiving papers on or about Hillary clinton).