Bernie Sanders Commits To End Whistleblower Prosecution Under The Espionage Act

Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) speaks to supporters at a campaign rally in Queensbridge Park on October 19, 2019 in the Queens borough of New York City.
Kena Betancur / Getty Images

During an interview with The Intercept ahead of his massive comeback rally in Queensbridge Park, New York, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders pledged to end the use of the Espionage Act to prosecute whistleblowers.

The Espionage Act was reportedly used by Barack Obama’s administration to prosecute eight people accused of leaking to the media ⁠— a number higher than all previous presidents combined. As for Donald Trump’s administration, he has prosecuted five whistleblowers using the Espionage Act and three without it, making him on track to match or exceed Obama’s record.

“Whistleblowers have a very important role to play in the political process,” Sanders said, adding that he is “very supportive of the courage” of such people, whoever they may be.

Sanders was asked if he would reconsider the sentence given to National Security Agency contractor Reality Winner. Although Sanders said he wasn’t familiar with the case, he reaffirmed his support for whistleblowers and was echoed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who joined him during the interview.

“I don’t want to speak out of turn when it comes to Reality Winner, but I just think that the prosecution of whistleblowers is frankly against our democracy,” she said. “We rely on whistleblowers, we rely on journalists, in order for us to hold our systems accountable.”

As The Inquisitr reported, Trump’s administration is allegedly weaponizing laws such as the Espionage Act to target government whistleblowers. According to computer security engineer Micah Lee, such people are usually not spies, but normal workers that are targeted using surveillance technology typically used to monitor foreign entities, enforce U.S. criminal law, and catch espionage.

“The act is blind to the possibility that the public’s interest in learning of government incompetence, corruption, or criminality might outweigh the government’s interest in protecting a given secret,” Jameel Jaffer, head of the Knight First Amendment Institute, wrote in a piece for the New Yorker.

According to Jaffer, the act is unable to differentiate between whistleblowers and spies.

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Sanders is currently third in the polls with 16.3 percent support. His performance at October’s debate was well-received by supporters for its passion, and he is set to appear in November’s debate.

Despite a heart attack, the Vermont senator’s massive New York rally attracted over 25,000 supporters ⁠— a number that reportedly alarmed Republican strategists. Former Trump campaign adviser Michael Caputo spoke during the rally, suggesting that anyone who had written Sanders off following his health scare should think again. According to Caputo, Sanders is “far more formidable now” than ever before.