Espionage Act

Bradley Manning, Edward Snowden, And The Espionage Act of 1917!

In 1917, after America had entered World War I, President Woodrow Wilson pushed through Congress the infamous Espionage Act, designed to be used against actual spies, but manipulated instead to bring Eugene Debs, the Socialist Party leader and five time Presidential candidate to trial, and to sentence him to federal prison, with Debs only being pardoned in 1921 by President Warren G. Harding, as Wilson refused to consider such a pardon.

That was not a bright moment in our civil liberties history, and Wilson remains condemned for promoting legislation that was abused by him and Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer, not only the Espionage Act, but also the Sedition Act of 1918, the first such federal legislation of that name and type since the Sedition Act of 1798 under President John Adams, which was repealed under his successor, Thomas Jefferson! The Sedition Act of 1918 was repealed by Congress in late 1920, but never has that occurred for the Espionage Act!

The Espionage Act should have been repealed, but instead, it was used against Pfc, Bradley Manning, who used his position in the Army to give access to hundreds of thousands of documents about the Iraq and Afghanistan War to Wikileaks, and then, after being arrested, was horribly mistreated, including total isolation and being stripped naked, outrageous conditions he did not, and no one, deserves!

Manning has now been acquitted of “aiding the enemy” under the Espionage Act language, but still faces many years in prison, when to many, he was a “whistle blower”, who should not be prosecuted and convicted for exposing the secret actions of our government and military in both Iraq and Afghanistan, two highly unpopular wars created by the actions of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld!

The same controversy centers around Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency employee, who shocked the nation by exposing many secrets of the NSA and Central Intelligence Agency, and then fled, first to Hong Kong, and then Russia, and is trying to gain asylum in Latin America, if not Russia.

A majority of the American people see him as a “whistle blower” rather than a spy, and so the issue of how to deal with these two individuals, one military, and one civilian, divides the American people!

The Centennial Of Woodrow Wilson’s Presidency: A Time For Debate Over His Legacy

A century ago day, Woodrow Wilson was inaugurated as the 28th President of the United States,and helped to transform the Presidency in massive ways, some good and some bad.

Wilson has been under attack in the present climate of conservative attacks on reform oriented Presidents, including Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Barack Obama.

The facts are that Wilson, FDR, and LBJ were the three most accomplished Presidents in domestic affairs, but with plenty of criticism about their handling of wars and the domestic relationship to those wars.

Wilson accomplished the most domestic reform of any President before him, taking on parts of Theodore Roosevelt’s New Nationalism agenda on the Progressive Party line in 1912, adding it to his own New Freedom legislative ideas.

So Wilson’s time saw the following:

Underwood Simmons Tariff

Federal Reserve Act

Clayton Anti Trust Act

Federal Trade Commission

Keating-Owen Child Labor Act

La Follette Seamen’s Act

Adamson Act (eight hour work day in interstate transportation)

Federal Farm Loan Act

Some of this did not work out well long term, and additionally, Wilson had major negative policies dealing with:

Woman Suffrage—opposing an amendment (although it came about despite him in 1920, via the 19th Amendment).

Race Relations—clearly racist policy of imposing Jim Crow segregation in Washington, DC; unfair treatment and recognition of African American sacrifices in the World War I effort; and endorsement of an openly racist film, D W Griffith’s BIRTH OF A NATION, which portrayed the Southern view of Reconstruction, a myth of long standing, which finally was proved inaccurate in the past half century of historical research and writing.

Civil Liberties Violations— including arrest and imprisonment of Socialist Party leader Eugene Debs for opposition to the draft and American involvement in World War I; the Espionage and Sedition Acts; and the Palmer Raids after the war.

In foreign policy, Wilson engaged in “Missionary Diplomacy” including interventions in Haiti, and more significantly in Mexico, attempting to pursue Pancho Villa for a raid across the border into Columbus, New Mexico, the worst incursion in American territory since the War of 1812. And of course, the controversy over Wilson and our entrance into World War I continues even today, and the whole debate and divisiveness over the Versailles Treaty and League of Nations in 1919-1920.

Additionally, being incapacitated by a stroke, but being unwilling to hand over temporary power to Vice President Thomas Marshall, and allowing his wife to run cabinet meetings, is another major issue in assessing Wilson’s Presidency.

So Wilson is a “very mixed bag” as a President, but usually is ranked in the bottom of the top ten of our Presidents, specifically because of his long range influence on America, rare among Presidents, for good or for bad, and there is clearly plenty of both!