Clinton Emails Highlight Dangerously Outdated Espionage Act
July 11, 2016
Though the FBI found that Hillary Clinton’s use of personal email while serving as Secretary of State constituted “gross negligence,” the agency did not recommend legal action. That determination illustrates the “anachronistic, labyrinthine, constitutionally problematic, and confusingly verbose Espionage Act of 1917,” University of Texas School of Law professor Steve Vladeck writes for Slate. The Espionage Act – written before the U.S. entered World War I, as a compromise with Great Britain – is “at once too broad and not broad enough – and gives the government too much and too little discretion in cases in which individuals mishandle national security secrets, maliciously or otherwise.” The nearly 100-year-old law doesn’t take into account the modern regime for classification of national security information, or the Supreme Court’s “sweeping invigoration of the First Amendment’s free speech protection,” nor the technological advances that have made most of the statute inapplicable or superfluous. The law’s weaknesses let Clinton off the hook while leaks from Gen. David Patraeus, Thomas Drake, and Chelsea Manning resulted in legal action and/or jail time.
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