The Espionage Act Gets An Instant Makeover, by Matt Taibbi

It would be more than a little ironic if Trump gets skewered on the same law with which he and Mike Pompeo skewered Julian Assange. From Matt Taibbi at taibbi.substack.com:

A law reviled by liberalism ten minutes ago is now Savior to All

Twitter avatar for @RBReichRobert Reich @RBReich

How long until Trump tries to fundraise off of potentially violating the Espionage Act?

The most mind-blowing of these tweets is by Reich, who should know better. If I were Trump, I absolutely would fundraise off being investigated under the Espionage Act. By pursuing him under this provision, the Justice Department just did Trump the mother of all favors, adding his name to a list of some of the most famous political martyrs in our history.

“Ellsberg, Hale, Winner, Snowden, Assange, and now Trump,” a source close to Julian Assange said this morning. “Incredible.”

Maybe Reich can’t see how this will play politically, or doesn’t care, but anyone thrilled at the prospect of trying to prosecute a former president under the Espionage Act has blacked out the recent history of this law. How much does this Act suck, and shame us all? Let’s count the ways.

The Espionage Act represents the evolution of a series of laws whose purpose is/was to criminalize unauthorized use of sensitive information. I wrote this after the indictment of Assange:

The indictment stressed Assange/Manning were seeking “national defense information” that could be “used to the injury of the United States…” [This] gave off a whiff of Britain’s Official Secrets Acts and America’s Defense Secrets Act of 1911, prohibiting “national defense” information going to “those not entitled to receive it…”

These laws were written in a way that contradicted basic speech protections… There was a way to read the Espionage Act that criminalized what the Columbia Law Review back in 1973 (during the Pentagon Papers controversy) called the “mere retention” of classified material.

If you want a clear portrait of the shift in establishment thinking about this, look at the attitude of the New York Times toward its own role in the history of the Act. In 1981, on the ten year anniversary of the government charging former Daniel Ellsberg with violation of the Espionage Act for taking the “Pentagon Papers” to the Times for publication, the paper’s former attorney in that case, Floyd Abrams, wrote an editorial celebrating the episode. He said it stiffened the spines of all journalists.”

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