Law Dictionary

Espionage Act

Law 18 U.S.C. § 792 et seq. (1917)
  1. served to suppress opposition to the United States entry into World War I by making criticism of U.S. policy a “treasonable” offense. In combination with the Sedition Act of 1918, which amended it, the Act was used as the basis for launching an unprecedented campaign against political radicals, suspected dissidents, left-wing organizations, and aliens. The disregard of basic civil liberties during these “Palmer raids,” as they came to be known (because of the prominence of Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer), drew widespread protest and ultimately discredited some high government officials. Once war opposition waned and the so-called Red Scare (i.e., fear of a perceived Bolshevik conspiracy to overthrow the U.S. government) passed, the law was allowed to expire (1921).


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