cartoon Espionage Act feature

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Congress Passes the Espionage Act

By June 15, 1917

The Espionage Act of 1917 is passed by Congress, making it a crime “to willfully cause or attempt to cause insubordination, disloyalty, mutiny, or refusal of duty, in the military or naval forces of the United States,” or to “willfully obstruct the recruiting or enlistment service of the United States.”

Building upon the Defense Secrets Act of 1911, the Espionage Act criminalizes information gathering and publication of information when done with “intent or reason to believe that the information is to be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation.”

When debating the Espionage Act, Congress narrowly rejected a provision is narrowly rejected that would have given the president the authority to ban newspapers from publishing national defense information that could aid the enemy.


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