Representative Rashida Tlaib has introduced an amendment to the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act that would reform the draconian 1917 Espionage Act to protect whistleblowers and publishers from prosecution.
Defending Rights and Dissent explains just how important enacting this reform would be:
The Tlaib amendment puts roadblocks in front of the government, making it harder to charge whistleblowers under the Espionage Act, and allowing whistleblowers to defend themselves if they are charged. Specifically, the amendment:
-Requires the government prove specific intent to injure the United States
-Requires that the information exposed was actually properly classified
-Permits a defendant charged under the Espionage Act to testify as to their purpose for disclosing the information
-Creates a public interest defense.
-Additionally, the amendment would undermine the government’s effort to prosecute Julian Assange – or any future publisher or journalist – under the Espionage Act by excluding journalists, publishers, and members of the general public from its jurisdiction.
As the Freedom of the Press Foundation’s Trevor Timm put it, “Congress has a historic chance to protect journalists and whistleblowers in this year’s defense authorization bill.”
Assange Defense co-chair and Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg reacted to the amendment in a statement to reporter Ryan Grim:
“For half a century, starting with my own prosecution, no whistleblower charged with violating the Espionage Act of 1917 has had, or could have, a fair trial. These long-overdue amendments would remedy that injustice, protect the First Amendment freedom of the press, and encourage vitally-needed truth-telling.”
Grim reported on the amendment proposal on The Hill’s Rising: