Last modified: 7:58 AM Saturday, 14 January 2017

Slamming the door on dissent

In this article, blogger Naomi Wolf makes the case that the World War I-era Espionage Act — expanded in 1918 to forbid “disloyal, profane, scurrilous or abusive language” about the U.S., its flag and its armed forces through a series of amendments, collectively known as the Sedition Act, and repealed in 1920 — represents a threat to all Americans’ freedom to speak critically of the ruling elite and its institutions.

Open window for corruption

If a way is open, it will enter.
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The U.S. Justice Department is now considering prosecuting WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange under this act, arguing that he illegally obtained and published classified documents vital to national security. Meanwhile, Senators Joe Lieberman, John Ensign and Scott Brown have proposed further strengthening the act by amending it with a proposed SHIELD Act (incurring concerns that it is so named to take advantage of public goodwill toward the “shield laws” intended precisely to protect journalists and their sources), which would ease prosecution of the New York Times and other publications that have printed stories based on information received from WikiLeaks.

Even should this latter proposal fail, the mere fact of the law’s being applied should terrify all friends of free expression. Like the later USA-PATRIOT Act, the ostensible spying law is unconscionably broad and can be interpreted to forbid and prosecute virtually any investigative reporting or any comment, however informal, based on such reporting. In fact, a malicious prosecutor could find grounds on this site for such a prosecution. And I am far from alone in this.

Not only should this perfidious act not be amplified, but it should be examined and ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. Failing this, it should be overturned by new legislation or annulled, if necessary, by a constitutional amendment that pre-empts future SHIELD Acts with a comprehensive and unequivocal shield law.

As long as the Espionage Act remains law, it will be exhumed time and again to menace our liberties. We need to hammer a stake through its heart once and for all.

Originally published as a review of a article on WikiLeaks and the Espionage Act.
As of 27 March 2015, the page cannot be found.

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