30 Dec 2010

Espionage Act ‘threatens every left wing activist,’ son of executed US communists declares

As US officials investigated whether they can charge WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange under the 1917 US Espionage Act, a voice of remarkable experience with the controversial law spoke out in defense of the secrets proprietor, suggesting his indictment under the act would yet again transform "dissent into treason."


Robert Meeropol's parents were Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, two communists who became the first Americans to be executed under the Espionage Act, amid the country's descent into McCarthyism. Their sentences were carried out in 1953, after they were found guilty of conspiracy to commit espionage by passing nuclear secrets to the Soviet Union.

The case remains a highly controversial moment in US history.

"The 1917 Act has a notorious history," Meeropol write in a post to a blog run by the Rosenberg Fund for Children, a group founded to support the children of progressive activists targeted by the government for their dissent. "It originally served to squelch opposition to World War I. It criminalized criticism of the war effort, and sent hundreds of dissenters to jail just for voicing their opinions. It transformed dissent into treason."

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