Stephen M. Kohn, Executive Director of the National Whistleblowers Center, wrote a history lesson published today by England's Guardian. Responding to recent calls to prosecute WikiLeaks and Bradley Manning under the 1917 Espionage Act, Kohn recounts how the Espionage Act was actually used. "The law has nothing to do with prosecuting spies. From its inception, it had everything to do with suppressing dissent," Kohn says. He explains that:
intellectuals, journalists, film producers and pacifist religious figures were also prosecuted. Prison terms were long, and some political prisoners died in federal jails. The abuses under the law were legendary, and mark a sad day in US history.
Kohn concludes with this plea:
The attorney general should stop trying to resurrect the Espionage Act, and instead dust off his copy of the US constitution. If he has any question as to the meaning of the first amendment, he should read James Madison's 1789 speech, in which he introduced the bill of rights in the first Congress of the United States: "Freedom of the press, as one of the great bulwarks of liberty, shall be inviolable."