The espionage Act and the National Defense Authorization Act, though were enacted for different purposes, serve the common goal of national security. The espionage act of 1917 was enforced during the earlier part of the twentieth century, when the entire country was under the grip of the fear towards Bolshevism, and there were widespread apprehensions regarding the possible spread of communism. The country had just recovered from the civil war, and the emotions of patriotism and nationalism towards the newly united America, was at its peak during the First World War. Russia had witnessed the Bolshevik revolution, and people in power in the USA feared that, some factions of the American society might be influenced to follow that example. The Boston Police Strike, the anarchists bombing, and the Seattle General Strike, further aggravated the situation and the espionage act was born. The act outlawed all activities which were aimed at, interfering military operations and insubordination to military authority.
The National Defense Authorization Act, on the other hand, dwells more with tackling radical internal threats, by strengthening the military operations. The act is mainly passed to authorize funding for military operations. The context, under which this act is passed, differs vastly from that of the espionage act. This is not a time when the country faces a possible military attack from the Soviet Union or other communist powers, nor does it fear that America’s military secrets may be traded to other international powers, which were essentially the basis for the espionage act. This act is more to avert terrorist attacks on Americans, and to curb any activities whether inside or outside the country, that might put the security of the nation in jeopardy.
Both the acts have given rise to their share of controversy, because of their alleged interference into the citizens’ personal liberty. Many suggested clauses of the NDAA, like indefinite detention without cause and requirement of military custody, are frowned upon by the human right activists, with its detractors naming it to be a tool for iron fist rule. Likewise, the espionage act too was also criticized for alleged misuse by some authorities, the most notable one being the imprisonment of President Joseph Franklin Rutherford.
But do acts such as these infringe upon the nostalgia of the American dream? It is a serious question to ponder. The answer to this question lies in our understanding of the American Dream. American dream is not an anarchist society which do not follows any rule. It is a dream of a society where everyone live freely by willfully obeying the laws of the land, which would safeguard the individual liberties, and at the same time keep its citizens safe and secure. Yes, the acts have a probability of being mishandled, but luckily we have a judicial system in place, which can address the issue of individual rights infringement, if any.
“Life, Liberty and Pursuit of happiness”, which is the essence of the American Dream is possible only in a society which is free of threats, both internal and external, and acts such as these ensure that safety, which will enable its citizens to pursue their dream and ‘go as far as their God-given talent will take them’.