So if Tokyo Rose had broadcast from the USA...

…would she have been protected by free speech laws. Yes, on one hand you could argue that she’s ‘lending aid to the enemy’. But she might be able to skirt that by expressing opinion and speculation.

Different Q: Lets assume Lord Haw Haw was actually born in Ireland and broadcast from the US. Is he also protected?

Radio broadcasting in the US is not covered under the 1st amendment

As an example the case NBC vs. U.S. in 1943

Law or no law, if she would have been found she would have been hanged and/or burned and/or shot.

That case gave the government power to regulate networks in addition to individual stations. It did not explicitly take away first amendment rights from those who spoke on the radio. The power was over the stations; they were the ones who could be fined or lose their licenses if they allowed unacceptable things to air. If someone swore during a program, the station was at fault: the government did not arrest or otherwise go after the speaker.

On the flip side, treasonous remarks are not protected by the first amendment no matter how they are issued, in person, in print, or broadcast, even when first amendment rights otherwise apply. Which remarks are treasonous are decided by judges and juries.

When you say Tokyo Rose you’re probably referring to Iva Toguri, who actually was convicted of treason. (Japan use a large number of female broadcasters, none of whom were known as Toyko Rose at the time.) It’s extremely doubtful anything she did was treasonous. She was not tried until 1949 when the growing McCarthy Era hysteria demanded a scapegoat. Since this was a show trial, it would presumably have convicted her even for American speech. But you really can’t build legal hypotheticals off a base where the law is too murky to have any meaning.

She was found, after the war. IIR Wiki correctly, she was convicted of treason, served six years of a ten year term, and then-President Ford pardoned her, based apparently on questions of the testimony at her trial.


… she’d be Fox News. JOKE!

[I thought I’d better add that.:eek: ]

If she had been found during the war, in the United States.
I didn’t think I would need to fill in those blanks so soon after the OP was posted, but apparently…

Or maybe not. She was held by the U.S. for a year after the war and let go because they had no evidence to convict her of anything. This is from the FBI website.

tldr: If the government wants a show trial, it will convict you, even if it has to brush off some perjury to do so.

Historically, protections under the First Amendment are not as strong during wartime. Even if Tokyo Rose weren’t prosecuted for treason, she probably would have been interned along with the other Nisei until the end of the war.

Lord Haw-Haw, if Irish as the OP says and making broadcasts injurious to Great Britain before the U.S. actually enters the war, is probably fine. After the U.S. enters the war and Great Britain requests he be forced from the air or extradited… maybe not so much.

P.G. Wodehouse got into trouble for something similar:

That’s what happened to Anwar al-Awlaki, after all.

Moderator Warning

Jasmine, adding “joke” after a political jab doesn’t make it OK. This is yet another warning for political jabs in General Questions. Considering that you’ve been warned about this multiple times, your posting privileges will be under discussion.

General Questions Moderator

On a related note, I read “Bringing the Thunder” by Gordon Bennett Robertson about his 35 missions in command of a B-29. I really enjoyed the book but I was pretty surprised, much like him no doubt, about how on the day he arrived at Guam, Tokyo Rose mentioned all the pilot’s names including him during her nightly broadcast. I always wondered about if the traitor that was providing such info to the Japanese was ever caught? It did eventually occur to me that it’s possible/likely that some subterfuge was involved here. Having someone seemingly sympathetic to the Japanese passing on relatively harmless info so that they can eventually pass on some juicy but misleading plans to help confuse the enemy. Just curious if anybody knows anything about this?

Also note that the now-famous phrase “You can’t yell FIRE in a crowded theatre” was written to justify stripping American anti-war activists of their citizenship and deporting them during (after) WWI for distributing material supporting a boycott of the draft, and the opinion was written by one on the most notable Supreme Court justices in history.

First Amendment? What dat?

I think it was clear the OP was asking whether or not her actions would have been legal. Your response seems to imply that she would have been lynched.

If I misunderstood your response and you meant that she would have been convicted of a capital crime and then executed, I think it would be helpful to explain what law she would have been breaking.

I was stating my belief that the law wouldn’t have provided any real protection under the circumstances stated in the OP.

Which is not really relevant to the question asked in the OP.

“So if Tokyo Rose had broadcast from the USA…
would she have been protected by free speech laws.”(italics mine)
I took the question literally. Whatever free speech laws there were, I don’t think they would have provided much protection if she had been found broadcasting in the U.S. during the war.

A pro-Fascist U.S.-based broadcaster directly targeting American servicemen or potential recruits during WWII would likely have been charged with sedition at some point, even though there was a surprising amount of tolerance for speech opposing U.S. war policy (even pro-Fascist utterances), compared to the climate in WWI.

“(On 12/17/41 Attorney General Francis) Biddle directed all United States attorneys that prosecutions for “alleged seditious utterances must not be undertaken unless consent is first obtained from the Department of Justice.” A few days later, several men were arrested in Los Angeles for allegedly praising Hitler, stating that Japan had done a “good job” in the Pacific, asserting that “the Japanese had a right to Hawaii” because there “are more of them there than there are Americans,” and declaring that they would “rather be on the side of Germany than on the side of the British.” Another man, Ellis Jones, was arrested for saying that “the President should be impeached for asking Congress to declare war.” They were charged with violating the Espionage Act of 1917. Biddle immediately dismissed the charges, stating that free speech “ought not to be restricted” unless public safety is “directly imperiled.””

The linked article notes that the most publicized trial of Fascist sympathizers in the U.S. during WWII (the “Great Sedition Trial” of 26 defendants) dragged on for four years (1942-46) and the cases were ultimately dismissed.

*apparently pro-Fascist expressions went underground a lot quicker in England, where (according to Len Deighton) people were arrested for saying things like “Hitler is a better man than Churchill”.

Were there any cases involving Japanese or Americans of Japanese descent?

A Google search turned up somebody else answering this question and a response cited this old SDSAB column asking a very similar question.

It doesn’t really get answered. The closest Bruce approaches an answer is this:

Nothing about Robertson there or anywhere else. Old memories and old war stories are always suspect. Did such a “Tokyo Rose” broadcast with such specific information really take place? If it did, I’m guessing that the information was literally plucked from the air rather than being fed by an informant.

Why do you think this? If a year’s investigation couldn’t find evidence of any crime committed what difference would it have made if the transaction took place in the U.S.?

The Roses didn’t broadcast any secrets. They got their information from public sources. An amazing amount of confidential info got published or broadcast by U.S. sources during the war, without a single treason prosecution. Even for this:

Many people then and since considered printing that information treasonous. McCormick was an isolationist and a loud and bitter critic of everything Roosevelt did. He would have been an easy target, not to mention an object lesson for other publishers. Nothing happened.

People kept publishing information about atomic bombs all through the war, even after a directive went out forbidding any mention of it or any related words. Several branches of military information and the FBI investigated them. Nobody was ever prosecuted.

So I ask again. Why do you think that Tokyo Rose would have been prosecuted without committing any crime?

And no, no treason cases involving Japanese citizens or non-citizens during the war.