Dusty Espionage Law With Jewish History Takes Center Stage in Snooping Scandal

World War I-Era Law Snares NSA Leaker Edward Snowden

Privacy Please: Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the infamous Pentagon Papers in the 1970s, speaks at a rally for accused WikiLeaks leaker Bradley Manning. Ellsberg has become an outspoken opponent of the government’s use of the Espionage Act to target those who reveal controversial programs.
getty images
Privacy Please: Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the infamous Pentagon Papers in the 1970s, speaks at a rally for accused WikiLeaks leaker Bradley Manning. Ellsberg has become an outspoken opponent of the government’s use of the Espionage Act to target those who reveal controversial programs.

By Nathan Jeffay and Nathan Guttman

Published July 17, 2013, issue of July 19, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 3 of 3)

So far, the Obama administration has used the Espionage Act eight times. Along with Snowden, the government has also charged other Pentagon, CIA and NSA employees and contractors, including FBI translator Shamai Leibowitz, who was accused of leaking information to a blogger about the U.S.’s wiretapping of the Israeli Embassy. In four cases, including that of Leibowitz, the espionage charge was later replaced with lesser charges.

But while steering clear of repeating the mistake of the AIPAC case prosecution, the government has used mentions of the Espionage Act in going after reporters holding information that prosecutors deemed as necessary for their investigation. Such was the case with Fox News reporter James Rosen, named as an unindicted co-conspirator in a leak case, a move needed to obtain a search warrant for his communications.

Long Island Rep. Peter King suggested recently that Glenn Greenwald, the reporter from The Guardian who uncovered the NSA snooping program, should also be charged.

Some observers note that the increasing number of cases based on the Espionage Act may be somewhat deceptive because the number of officials with access to classified information has also increased dramatically in the past decade.

Advocates and legal experts also note that there is scant other legislation on the books dealing directly with classified information leaks. Current laws target some specific aspects of information leaks, such as revealing the identity of intelligence agents or disclosing intelligence communications, but there is no overall statute that would criminalize unlawful disclosure of information.

Such a legislative move might finally put the dusty 96-year-old law back in the history books and take it off the front pages.

“If Congress passes such a law and makes clear that the Espionage Act will no longer be directed against leaks to the press, that would be a reasonable trade-off,” Halperin said.

Contact Nathan Guttman at guttman@forward.com or on Twitter, @nathanguttman


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.