Senator Rand Paul called for doing away with the Espionage Act this past weekend, urging that it has been routinely abused since its inception over 100 years ago.
On Saturday, Sen. Rand Paul called for the end of the Espionage Act, less than a week after the FBI’s search of former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home.
“The espionage act was abused from the beginning to jail dissenters of WWI. It is long pastime to repeal this egregious affront to the 1st Amendment,” he wrote on Twitter.
The espionage act was abused from the beginning to jail dissenters of WWI. It is long past time to repeal this egregious affront to the 1st Amendment.
Repeal the Espionage Act – The Future of Freedom Foundation https://t.co/3KCgujpS9z
— Rand Paul (@RandPaul) August 13, 2022
Accusing federal authorities of “playing politics and breaking into” his home, Trump has claimed that all of the material was declassified and “They could have had it anytime they wanted—and that includes LONG ago. ALL THEY HAD TO DO WAS ASK.”
Now, Biden’s DOJ is presumably weighing whether or not to indict President Trump for allegedly violating the act by taking classified documents with him upon leaving office (although, whether the documents in question were actually “classified” is up for dispute).
Paul’s tweet included a link to a 2019 article from The Future of Freedom Foundation titled “Repeal the Espionage Act.”
The Espionage Act was passed in June 1917 under President Woodrow Wilson’s administration, coming just weeks after the United States entered World War I. The act forbade relaying or copying information relating to defense with the intention of causing damage to the United States or to benefit other foreign nations.
In the 2019 article, Jacob G. Hornberger, the foundation’s founder, and president argues that the Espionage Act is “a tyrannical law” that can be, and has been, used to punish government whistleblowers.
The most obvious example of this comes in the form of Julian Assange, the head of Wikileaks who was indicted for violating the act.
“Some news media commentators are finally coming to the realization that if the Espionage Act can be enforced against Assange for what he did, it can be enforced against anyone in the press for revealing damaging inside information about the national-security establishment — i.e., the Pentagon, the CIA and the NSA,” Hornberger wrote.
“Therefore, they are calling on the Justice Department to cease and desist from its prosecution of Assange.”
“The law converted anyone who publicly criticized the draft or attempted to persuade American men to resist the draft into felons. And make no mistake about it: U.S. officials went after such people with a vengeance, doing their best to punish Americans for doing nothing more than speaking.”
At least one source close to Trump maintains he, much like Assange, took the documents because “he thought the American public should have the right to read” them.
Kash Patel, a former Department of Defense official under Trump, told Breitbart News:
“Trump declassified whole sets of materials in anticipation of leaving government that he thought the American public should have the right to read themselves.”
“The White House counsel failed to generate the paperwork to change the classification markings, but that doesn’t mean the information wasn’t declassified,” he continued. “I was there with President Trump when he said ‘We are declassifying this information.’”
“This story is just another disinformation campaign designed to break the public trust in a president that lived on transparency. It’s yet another way to attack Trump and say he took classified information when he did not.”
Politico reported last week that the FBI is investigating Trump for potential violations of the Espionage Act, including “the refusal to return national security documents upon request.”
The report notes that “Conviction under the statutes can result in imprisonment or fines.”
Trump’s detractors in the media are running with the notion that he could be indicted under the Espionage Act, with MSNBC even suggesting Trump could be looking at 10 years in prison.