The Espionage Act was passed today in 1917. It helped destroy the Socialist Party of America and quashes free speech to this day.
Last week, a little over an hour after the Interceptnonepublished a story about a classified National Security Agency report concerning Russian election interference, Reality Winner, the alleged leaker, was arrested and charged under the Espionage Act.
In recent years, the Espionage Act has been used as a statutory sword against whistleblowers. Donald Trump allegedly told former FBI director James Comey he wanted to prosecute journalists under the statute.
But historically, the Espionage Act is perhaps most significant not for its role in persecuting whistleblowers, but for crushing dissent during World War I.
Nowhere was this crackdown felt more acutely than within the Socialist Party (SP). While never on par with some of its international counterparts, the SP was a genuine mass party that elected countless local officials, sent two members to Congress on its own ballot line, and fostered a vibrant socialist press that reached millions. Its longtime standard-bearer, Eugene Debs, was a nationally known figure.