Don’t cheer for the Espionage Act being used against Donald Trump. It will backfire | Trevor Timm

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TookIberal pundits and Twitter accounts are applauding the investigation for containing classified documents at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago property. What they don’t know is that they are throwing their support behind one of the most dangerous and terrifying laws ever: the Espionage Act. Holding Trump accountable doesn’t mean we all have to become cheerleaders for the often-abuse law, which is primarily used to prosecute whistleblowers and bully journalists.

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Ever since the 100-year-old Espionage Act was cited in the search warrant for Trump’s Florida residence, Twitter and cable news have full of misinformation About the law and what it means. Those seeking to prosecute Trump under the act are spreading a ton of misleading statements in the process.

First, let’s get this out of the way: Just because the law is called the “Espionage Act,” doesn’t mean there’s any evidence Trump “spied” (more on that later). msnbc host And his former CIA guest There is even an unfounded speculation that because Trump had these documents in his home, it is linked to the deaths of CIA assets around the world.


What a convenient excuse for the CIA! There isn’t even a single piece of evidence that Trump had any classified docs on the premises causing anyone’s death, and it totally takes the CIA off the hook for constantly killing people who have been – by the way – for decades. Happening from There Several years ago there was a New York Times investigation CIA asset networks in China and Iran are reported to be completed and being executed in 2010. legacy of ashesWhich explains how it has happened repeatedly in the history of the agency, with little or no public accountability.

There is no evidence that the documents have fallen into the wrong hands for a conviction under the Espionage Act. as Laufair explainsIt is only necessary that you keep government documents related to national defense with you and do not give them back. The primary targets of the Espionage Act in recent years are not government officials selling secrets to foreign governments, but patriotic whistleblowers who have given journalists classified evidence of wrongdoing inside the US national security apparatus. Sources of stories highlighting illegal mass surveillance, nonjudgmental drone attacks, discriminatory FBI practices, and cases of war and peace have all been targeted with the law.

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And that’s why civil liberties advocates have been sounding the alarm about the law for years.

But it is not just the general goals of the law that are the problem. The law is incredibly comprehensive and binds the hands of anyone charged under it so that they can’t make an adequate defense. Sources of journalists prosecuted under the Espionage Act are not allowed to tell their jury Why? They did what they did (“I did it to expose government wrongdoings or illegal behavior” is unacceptable). They are also not allowed to talk about the benefits of the public knowing the information given, nor are they allowed to challenge whether the information was classified correctly in the first place.

This last issue is particularly alarming, because the US government There is a huge overclassification addiction, where they label “secret” on almost everything they come across on their desks, whether it’s an actual state secret or not. Has a wife of former government officials Tested the fact to Congress for yearsStill the problem continues.

In all of these previous cases, the Justice Department takes the position that everything leaked to journalists is highly sensitive and confidential and that any leaks are at risk. Editors of major newsrooms have repeatedly heard from government officials that they’ve stopped believing it When they have the documents. So excuse me if I’m a little skeptical about the Justice Department’s explosive signals and leaks that potentially documents Trump’s Dr. And I don’t think journalists and pundits on Twitter should relentlessly repeat such vague claims, simply because they hate Trump.

as an informant Reality Winner ToldIt is “incredibly ironic” that Trump is now being investigated under the statute, given that his administration had brought at least five cases against government servants who reported to journalists, and in those cases sought far more jail time than in the earlier administration. their administration Even the law took an unprecedented step further to prosecute WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange, which is the Guardian and Almost every press freedom organization in the world Everywhere considers a serious threat to the rights of journalists.

Do not get me wrong. It is also absurd to say that Trump is a whistleblower or acting as a journalist. But further legitimizing a terrifying law – and even expanding its reach beyond those who sign confidentiality agreements – could have implications for the future.

Given the mountain of shady and horrific activities Trump has been doing before, during and after his presidency, it seems short-sighted for everyone to pin their hopes on an investigation into whether he has more than a few documents. Should have been on time.

Of course Trump should be subject to the laws that everyone else is, and that doesn’t mean the US government shouldn’t be able to control Real Mystery Thankfully, there are many more options besides Acts of Espionage to choose from. The Mar-a-Lago warrant cites possible violations of three other statutes, including obstruction of justice, that would result in jail time even if found guilty.

Like many others, I hope Trump is held accountable for his insidious corruption and possible crimes. But let’s not preach one of the most damning laws on the books for doing it.

  • Trevor Tim is the Executive Director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation


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