Never Have I Ever Been Charged For Violating the Espionage Act

Have you seen any of these guys at Mar-A_Lago?

Happy Monday ya’ll from the Tired Midnight Blogger. While it isn’t Monday yet, I thought I’d take a moment before I get hauled off to the Chateau D’iff for espionage to give a Tired Bloggers take on the whole Donald Trump espionage et trios Maralegal fiasco. I would ask how we ended up here, but more and more I feel the question is, “How have we stayed this far from the precipice so long?”

Last week I asked the question of whether or not the police are no more than the standing army of the Hegemony. I didn’t answer that question, though I hope I left enough information to cause people to do their own thinking about the subject. Let me start today’s inquiry with a query. If the police are the standing army of the Hegemony, what does that make the FBI?

I’ve written a post about J. Edgar Hoover (no relation to Edgar Allen Poe). I’ll leave the link here for those who wish to read or review that information.

Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer was J. Edgar Hoover’s mentor. It was under this man’s direction that the notorious Palmer Raids of the Red Scare occurred in 1919-1920. Ironically, there was a pandemic going on then, too…I honestly hope this has nothing to do with the Hegemony because frankly, I think they need new ideas.

Here I’m going to discuss three things for the edification of those who, like me, are desperately trying to make sense of the whole Mar-a-Lago malady.

Depending on time frames and reader demand, I may make this a multi-part series.

  • 1) The history of the Espionage Act of 1917. What kind of historical company is Trump involved with? (Why is a Dead South song running through my head?)
  • 2) Are there other folks (whether President, Congressmen, or Cabinet officials) who have done similar things, and what were the consequences (if any) for these people?
  • 3) Both parties accuse the other party of weaponizing the FBI for political persecution. Does either party have a legitimate claim? If both do, which one has the best claim? Who drew first blood in this war of allegations?

Let’s begin, shall we? Let’s shall!

Rarely has a Congressional Act created more protest and outrage than the Espionage Act of 1917. It was enacted by a frightened Congress who, after years of promising to keep us out of WWI, suddenly responded with outrage to the sinking of the cruise liner ship The Lusitania. Image from

As the name implies, the Espionage Act of 1917 was passed in 1917. The United States had remained neutral during the First World War, but our neutrality was strained by unrestrained submarine warfare in the Atlantic and Pacific. The British had an overall naval superiority, and their blockade was literally causing starvation in Germany. Desperate to end the blockade, Germany, which had superior submarine warships at the time, retaliated by attacking any and all non-Central Powered ships. Flag opposition in the German ranks to this strategy was censored with dismissal. When the German U boat U-20 allegedly sank the Lusitania, all bets were off. The luxury liner was actually a British ship, and as such the Germans felt it was a fair target. But there were 123 American citizens that lost their lives included in the total death toll of 1195.

German Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg believed the all-out sinking of noncombatant’s vessels would accomplish nothing but to bring the US and possibly other nations into the war against Germany. He was proven correct, but this did not save his career. The military forced his resignation on on 13 July 1917. Image from,Hungary%20on%20December%207%2C%201917.&text=Germany’s%20resumption%20of%20submarine%20attacks,States%20into%20World%20War%20I.

The Germans had bet that they could end the war before the Americans could get to the conflict. They lost this bet, partially because along with sinking the Lusitania, we got our hands on the infamous Zimmerman telegram. The Germans decided to send a proposal to the Mexican president offering German support should Mexico decide to declare war on the US. The British intercepted this telegram and sent it to US officials. The translation runs: “We make Mexico a proposal of alliance on the following basis: make war together, make peace together, generous financial support and an understanding on our part that Mexico is to reconquer the lost territory in Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona.” Mexican president Venustiano Carranza studied the proposal carefully, but decided that the risk of invading the US was too great, since the Germans were an ocean away, and the American navy, he felt, would easily blockade any support the Germans might send. He also did not want the headache of trying to naturalize former American citizens if they should happen to win. It was actually a pretty intelligent cost/benefit analysis. Maybe the Germans should have put Carranza in charge of their military. At any rate, enraged Americans joined the war, the rest is literally history. And not all of it paints the US in a positive light.

Mexican president Venustiano Carranza with delegates for the Mexican Constitutional Convention. I can’t blame the guy for not wanting a war with the US. He was trying to pull his country together, and while war does pull people together, there had been so much bloodshed in recent Mexican Revolutions. Image from Much of the information above was from and,Hungary%20on%20December%207%2C%201917.&text=Germany’s%20resumption%20of%20submarine%20attacks,States%20into%20World%20War%20I.

Harking back to the Palmer Raids, this law was the backbone behind the original Red Scare just a shade over a hundred years back. Quoting Yahoo News: “the act prohibited obtaining or disclosing information related to national defense if it could be used at the expense of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation. In 1918, a set of amendments prohibited speech considered disloyal or abusive to the United States.” Now, let me pause one moment. People have been saying a lot about how Trump claims erroneously that the “President cannot break the law.” I’m not going to argue either the legitimacy of that theory or argue the facts of whether he actually said this or not. But I wish to point out…as President, he perforce obtained such information as President. Every President since Washington has had “information related to national defense.” So logically, it can’t apply to any President. The question would then be, did he either 1) use the information by disclosing it to a foreign power, or 2) did he say something disloyal in the documents? At this point, the wording of the accusation, at least in Yahoo News, is a touch too vague for me to feel confident about saying that Trump was guilty (or innocent) of violating The Espionage Act of 1917.

The front page of the Chicago Federation of Labor’s newspaper, The New Majority, January 10, 1920, features an article that describes the Palmer Raids as terrorism. Image from

But I digress too much. Let’s keep digging into the history. The Act was passed, and as we often do, we traded our freedoms for false security. AG Palmer (he looks like a cheerful chap, doesn’t he?) used the act to purge America of Communists. Don’t get me wrong, I get the fear he felt. And as I stated in my (all too short) post about Hoover, we saw the horrors that were going on in Europe. There were actual terrorist actions even in the states that likely persuaded many that these acts were necessary. Even political opposition had become a wicked tool in the Kaiser’s arsenal. “Come come! We must confound Jerry at every turn!” Palmer ordered thousands of raids, thousands of deportations. In the article sited about, we learn that “He deported the self-avowed anarchist Emma Goldman and others suspected of subversive activities. On January 2, 1920, government agents in 33 cities rounded up thousands of persons, many of whom were detained without charge for long periods. The disregard of basic civil liberties during the “Palmer raids,” as they came to be known, drew widespread protest and ultimately discredited Palmer, who nevertheless justified his program as the only practical means of combating what he believed was a Bolshevik conspiracy to overthrow the U.S. government. Although he lost the Democratic presidential nomination in 1920, Palmer remained active in the Democratic Party until his death, campaigning for, among others, presidential candidates Al Smith and Franklin D. Roosevelt.”

Yahoo News tells us that a film producer was convicted and sent to prison for making the film The Spirit of ’76. He was accused of being seditious because the film undermined our ally, Great Britain.

This is no joke. The archives of the New York Public Library confirm this was a real court case producer Robert Goldstein lost. Here is a quote: ” building its case against Goldstein—ironically named United States v. “The Spirit of ’76”—the government asserted that Goldstein had knowingly made a pro-German propaganda movie with the intent to impugn the nation’s allies, foment disloyalty, and impede the U.S. military’s conscription efforts.  Goldstein countered, to no avail, that his main motivation in making the picture had been financial—that he believed a movie dealing with America’s victory in the War of Independence would have broad box-office appeal, given the patriotic mood of the country.   The atrocities committed in the film by British soldiers were, he further contended, historically accurate and necessary to the plot.” Goldstein was convicted by a jury of his peers, sentenced to ten years in a Federal Prison, and fined $5,000. Take that patriotism!

The news article detailing the trial. I feel better about this law already! Thank God I was saved from watching a silent film about the greatness of George Washington. The film actually has an IMDB page. Feel free to look it up, but from what I can gather no copies of the film are extant. Image and quote above from

So who all has been charged in more recent times under this act? Let’s go back to Yahoo News to answer that question:

“The law has been used to prosecute spies and leakers. Those accused of spying under the act include Julius and Ethel Rosenberg in the 1950s for purportedly giving nuclear secrets to the Soviet Union; Aldrich Ames, a CIA officer, who was charged for revealing the identities of American informants to the Soviet Union in 1994; and Robert Hanssen, an FBI agent, who was sentenced to life in prison in 2002 after confessing to selling secrets to the Russians.

“Prominent leak cases involving the act include that of Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers by photocopying the secret history of the Vietnam War and giving it to The New York Times. He was initially charged with a felony under the Espionage Act, but the charges were later dismissed.

“Reality Winner, a former military contractor, was not so lucky. In 2018, she was sentenced to five years in prison for leaking a classified intelligence report about Russian interference in the 2016 election to The Intercept.”

Let’s not forget this controversial figure. Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks and notorious whistle-blower. Is this man a hero, or a most dangerous spy? Let me know in the comments. Image from

That’s great Tired Blogger. What does all this have to do with Donald Trump? We now have a thorough list of some of the people the law has been used to prosecute and persecute. What does it all mean?

Well, stay tuned intrepid reader. Let me know in the comments what you think of it all. In the next post, I’ll be investigating what the law actually says, and I’ll do some digging into whether there are other folks (whether President, Congressmen, or Cabinet officials) who have done similar things, and what were the consequences (if any) for these people? At this point, I am pretty sure from what I am reading that at least Trump is the first President to be investigated under this charge. Come back Wednesday night for more Tired Blogging!

I wonder how Trump feels, being lumped in the same category as so many left-wingers? Well, in Hell he’ll be in good company. If only Rudi Juliani had sung this, maybe he would not have been kicked off The Masked Singer. Or, at least, I’d have had more respect for him.

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