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such federal legislation of that name and type since the Sedition Act of 1798 under President John Adams, which was repealed under his successor, Thomas Jefferson! The Sedition Act of 1918 was repealed by Congress in late 1920, but never has that occurred for the Espionage Act!
The Espionage Act should have been repealed, but instead, it was used against Pfc, Bradley Manning, who used his position in the Army to give access to hundreds of thousands of documents about the Iraq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!