Thus, the government was faced with several unattractive options: prosecute Communists for espionage and reveal the Venona decoding, destroying an extremely valuable source of information on the Soviets; spend huge resources monitoring the CPUSA in a potentially fruitless attempt to disrupt its espionage activities; ignore the CPUSA's espionage and continue to allow American secrets to leak to the country's greatest enemy; or stretch the boundaries of the First Amendment and prosecute CPUSA leaders under the Smith Act, as the government had previously done to Nazi and fascist leaders [prosecutions that are considered far less noteworthy by historians, and that were supported by CPUSA leaders!]. The government did not obviously choose the worst option.Of course, I spent several pages elaborating on these arguments, so if you're interested, read the whole thing.
Monday, May 9, 2011
The Smith Act Prosecutions
Posted by David Bernstein
Apropos of Scott Martelle, The Fear Within: Spies, Commies, and American Democracy on Trial, recently mentioned on this blog, I discussed the Smith Act prosecutions a few years back in the Northwestern University Law Review. I concluded that ideally the government should have prosecuted the defendants for conspiracy to commit espionage, but that the Smith Act prosecutions may have been a reasonable second-best alternative under the circumstances:
at 4:55 PM