What's this you say? Sedition? Isn't that some old law that was kind of like treason, but only used against Commies and then dropped by our country?
Emphatically no! It was "some old law" that was turned into or rolled into some new laws, not only used against Commies, and certainly not dropped by our country. In fact, it is still being enforced as we speak. Let's, for one moment, set the record straight.
What it is:
Sedition is a term of law which refers to covert conduct, such as speech and organization, that is deemed by the legal authority as tending toward insurrection against the established order. Sedition often includes subversion of a constitution and incitement of discontent (or resistance) to lawful authority. Sedition may include any commotion, though not aimed at direct and open violence against the laws. Seditious words in writing are seditious libel.
The Sedition Act of 1798 generated so much opposition (see Alien and Sedition Acts) that similar statutes were not enacted until the 20th cent. During World War I the Espionage Act (1917) and the Sedition Act (1918) punished speeches and writings that interfered with the war effort or caused contempt for the government.
How it was used.
Sedition is still very much on the books today, and during this time of war and period of national discontent the government has sought to remove it from it's hiding place, dust it off, and make it useful once again. It is (supposedly) harder now for our government to convict persons of acts of sedition in modern day courts, due to the changes the crime of sedition has gone through in our history. For example, forcing sedition charges to be proven to have a real and immediate threat to the nation, otherwise known as the clear-and-present-danger test. Of course, our judiciary committee often times chose to circumvent or outright ignore this requirement in their pursuit of subversive citizens, but that is a topic for later discussion. The rolling of the sedition act into the espionage act of 1918 had some interesting results in our country, actually suppressing the first amendment rights of workers even more so by stipulating the criminal behavior to include
'"[...]utter, print, or publish disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language about the form of government, the Constitution, soldiers and sailors, [the] flag, or uniform of the armed forces[...]' with intent to bring scorn, contempt, and disrepute upon them."
It would seem that my entire blog is an act of sedition, and I have it down to an art form at that. Of course it was widely labeled as being unconstitutional, not that it stopped our government from
Where is it today?
Fast forward for just a moment to present day issues. The vast majority of the population opposes not only the war waging on in Iraq, the movement towards Iran and other Middle Eastern countries, but a variety of domestic policies that have started a wave of analytical opposition by groups and individuals alike. In previous posts I have referenced new and old legislation pertaining to the organization of groups in the US who oppose the government, as well as bills such as HR 1955 and violations of our first amendment rights which not only include free speech, but also the right to petition our government for a redress of our grievances.
What's all the hubub, Bub?
Today, the government having been slapped with mild restrictions on who they can and can't lock away for speaking out against the government has found a new and improved way to use the old sedition act. Who says our country doesn't reuse and recycle? They have tied the act to our financial and economic dependency. Much like the Red Scare where people were often screened for Communist, Anarchist, Syndicalist and other subversive ties in their positions, particularly those of a sensitive nature, our government has saw fit to require the government's version of screening 4.0 of individuals in particular skills and trades on the basis of "Homeland Security". Most notably is the TWIC or Transportation Workers Identification Credentials. Any person who works in a port or transportation industry who may have unescorted access into secure or sensitive areas will be required to obtain additional dual interface integrated circuit chip encoded identification cards, at the bargain basement price of $132.50 a pop. No big deal, right? Wrong. The government has finally legalized the unconstitutional practice of employers asking employees if they've been to ant-war, anti- bush rallies, or if they are aligned with "subversive" political ideologies. Well, sort of.
Actually the government has seen fit to simply use the threat of financial loss to try and keep people from speaking out against their government. Here, See for yourself:
"What are the permanent disqualifying criminal offenses?
(1) Espionage or conspiracy to commit espionage
(2) Sedition or conspiracy to commit sedition
(3) Treason or conspiracy to commit treason
(4) A federal crime of terrorism (18 U.S.C. 2332(g)) or comparable State law
Look at the first four reasons for disqualification and denial of the identity card. Sedition is number two. This is a blatant attempt to frighten people who's lives and families depend on the very income they will be denied if the government so much as whiffs seditious acts or subversive behavior. While most people certainly wouldn't be successfully tried right here, right now for sedition, the mere threat of losing one's ability to fully perform their duties at work, thus lose their job is typically enough to keep them from doing it in the first place. Also note that it say "conspiracy to commit sedition" meaning if that employees spouse, such oh, yours truly were to need one of these cards my blog could be enough to disqualify my husband's eligibility. All in the name of "safety". Even though most employees who have access now already undergo background checks and screening.
Of course, there is a rub to this, the loophole as it were. Sedition, as it is currently worded is to take action or encourage the abolition of, or oppose, obstruct etc.. a lawful authority. Who and what are lawful authorities? That is for the next post, I'm afraid.
Hat tip to Chelle from Offended Blogger for bringing this to my attention.
 Civil Liberties and the Constitution Cases and Commentaries Barker, Lucius and Barker, Twiley Jr. Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, N.J. 1970 (pg178-193)
and citations in text.