Espionage Act

On June 15, two months after the United States entered World War I, Congress passed the Espionage Act of 1917. Implemented by A. Mitchell Palmer, the United States attorney general under President Woodrow Wilson, the purpose of the Espionage Act was to thwart avoidance of the draft, prevent the sabotage of state activities, and define the act of espionage during wartime. However, the act’s subsequent interpretations led to the prosecution of socialists, pacifists, other anti-war activists, and members of the press.

Because the Espionage Act criminalized the transmission of information, the scope of the terms had implications for the First Amendment and freedom of the press. Though the courts debated the degree of immediacy to national security that must be proven to warrant criminal prosecution, ...

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