End the 1917 Espionage Act

Violation of the 1917 Espionage Act is the law that Julian Assange faces if he is extradited to the US from England. If found guilty of the charges under this violation, Assange faces up to 175 years in a US supermax prison. For what? many people ask. This is where it gets tricky.  The 1917 Espionage Act is vague. It was called for in president Woodrow Wilson’s 1915 State of the Union Address. Note the vague, flexible language (from Wikipedia):

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.

Note the flavor of contempt for “naturalized citizens” — i.e, immigrants seen as infiltrators.

Assange is not an American, so how he can be tried under that law will be fleshed out by lawyers in the future. In the meantime, as if acknowledging this fact, the US, such as Mike Pompeo have publicly called him a “”non-state hostile intelligence service.” This makes him drone-eligible; he is being seen here by the US government as a terrorist, the reasoning for his kill not far removed from the thinking that went into Obama killing US citizens  Anwar al-Awlaki, and, later, his 16 year old son Abdulrahman al-Awlaki (and other unnamed children), and, under Trump, an 8 year old Awlaki girl, Nawar al-Awlaki. That’s what we are now prepared to do to American citizens — Hellfire missile them to death.

If Assange gets extradited to the US, a Necessity Defense will be unavailable to protect him, although it is highly relevant.  Instead, we need to take out the law — the Espionage Act of 1917 — a POLITICAL law almost impossible to defend against (again look at the loose language of Wilson’s inspiring call to act).  The US military and tech giants already own the Internet, and have so many resources devoted to identifying potential “problems” that such an Act is show trial stuff meant to publicly validate the surveillance state evil — with the Press behaving as propaganda provocateurs. Like al Qaeda, American citizens wear no uniforms. This was a justification for the Gestapo to use the tactics they described as Enhanced Interrogation against captured enemies — tactics the Bush administration adopted with mustard and piccalilly. The giant fusion databases that create what Ed Snowden describes as Permanent Records are essentially an algorithmic hitlist for future dissidents.

The Panama Papers, the Pandora Papers, the Pentagon Papers, the Doomsday Machine plans that Ellsberg describes in his latest book, and, most importantly, the Wikileaks: Collateral Murder, State Department cables, DNC emails, and Vault 7 details that (Assange suggests) were used to create Guccifer to set hium up as a Russian agent — all of this points to an undeclared  war between the 1% and the rest of us.  Under this regime, Democracy everywhere has become a lease-lend program — as with Amazon’s Kindle books, we don’t buy them anymore, we lease them. Check out the fine print at Amazon and in our current state of Democracy.

It’s time we once again realize that the Bill of Rights, upon which so much of our rightful sense of exception rests, was an afterthought to the property-owning ofter-slaver White founders. The Constitution without the Amendments is a protection statement for the 1%.  America needs serious reform in a number of key political and economic areas. Rather than behaving as a gangster state whose reach extends anywhere on the planet, let’s begin our much needed democratic reform by ending the message of arrogance and deceit tied up in the Espionage Act. Then we’ll roll up our sleeves for the rest. Maybe treat the 1% like their Nam needing some comeuppance.

Please consider signing my Change.Org petition that may help in some small way create momentum toward eliminating the political nonsense called the 1917 Espionage Act.

Here is the link.

John Kendall Hawkins is an American ex-pat freelancer based in Australia.  He is a former reporter for The New Bedford Standard-Times.