Underlining added by me.
As there has never been a country which devoted itself so ruthlessly to espionage as Germany, so there has never been a country which offered so wide and varied a field for it as America. The German attack on the United States began long before this country dreamed of entering the war. Influences were set to work to stifle all legislation looking toward preparedness. Press campaigns of the most elaborate sort were carried on to bias public opinion, to moderate or misdirect the indignation aroused by German methods of conquest, and to persuade the country to inaction.
The immunity of ambassadorial officers was used as a shelter for conspiracies against American life and property, and against the life and property of our neighbor countries.
Efforts to stir up other nations against the United States have been incessant, and are still made.
Through neutral channels, often by the most devious courses, American banking and commerce have been and are still employed to the injury of American interests.
Schemes have been practiced for checking the adoption of the principle of conscription and universal service; later, for preventing its success by corrupting members of exemption boards, or by encouraging resistance to the draft and desertion. Supplementary to this activity is the placing of spies or propagandists among the regiments in camp or proceeding to the battleground.
Every true patriot is a believer in peace, provided it is not purchased at the price of freedom or honor. The word “pacifist” is applied generally to a believer in peace at any cost, an immediate peace, though it may in the end grow intolerable and compel another war. Pacifists have been so played upon by German agents, that they have been more or less unwittingly recruited as active agents of the German cause, and have become a dangerous element of the population, since it is manifest that any activity whatsoever which retards or diminishes the maximum efficiency and enthusiasm of a country at war, is inimical to the success of that country, and gives the enemy aid and comfort.
Whenever you see the word “German” in this piece, substitute your favorite term for the enemy in this war and you will begin to hear history rhyme.
Besides the actual physical menace to the personnel, the equipment, or the efficiency of our national force, there is what might be called the spiritual invasion. Anything that tends to diminish the ardor, the conviction, the optimism of the people at large, is hardly less destructive of effectiveness than an actual defeat on the battleground. The poisonous gas attack is practiced by the Germans, not only against our soldiers, but also against our citizens.
At a time when the whole nation must bend every energy and make every sacrifice, discouraging rumors gain an incalculable power. It is of the greatest importance to the health of our troops that sweaters, socks, wristlets, and “helmets” should be knitted for them by the devoted women of the land, and an enormous quantity of these articles provided from the countless hand looms. Suddenly a story appeared somewhere that a woman who had knitted a sweater and sewed into it a bank note for the further comfort of the wearer, found that sweater on the back of a Red Cross agent, or on the counter of a department store. This story reappeared with inconceivable frequency in the United States. It was almost always told as the experience of a friend of a friend, and had just transpired in each instance. Questionnaires were sent out concerning rumors of this sort, and disclosed that this particular libel was quoted as of personal knowledge in every community, from the largest cities in the east to the mining towns in the Nevada desert.
Every woman who hears and believes this circumstantial story is inclined to give up her work. The sum total of such a diminution of output cannot be computed. In times of peace such examples of wireless gossip are merely amusing encouragements to satire. In a time of war, they constitute a serious danger.
In many cases it is impossible to trace such stories directly to German sources, but they are no less dangerous for being of American origin. The misbehavior, disloyalty, or indifference of native Americans is as important a material of military intelligence as any other. The activities of many elements in the pacifist movements, the extremists among the socialists and the IWW, are as proper subjects for investigation and repression as mutinous soldiers, deserters or traitors in the ranks.
Stories of naval disasters to our fleet, quotations from eye-witnesses, once-removed, of hundreds of wounded sailors seen being smuggled into hospitals; tales of hardships and cruelties and immoralities– all these tend, not only to distress the families of our soldiers and sailors, but to diminish enlistment, to strengthen the pacifists and the aliens, to encourage resistance to the draft. Statements that Liberty Bonds and Thrift Stamps are worthless and will be repudiated have a direct financial menace.
People and societies of loudly proclaimed sincerity, have promulgated the most outrageous slanders proclaiming the immorality of Red Cross nurses and the drunkenness and viciousness of our troops abroad and at home. Such libels left unpunished, not only reward the noblest patriots with unmerited dishonor, but they discourage sacrifice and instil a paralyzing cynicism.
The running down of such rumors takes time and labor and organization, but it is vital to our efficiency, not only to stamp out such libels, but to bring home to our population, native and foreign, that they manufacture and disseminate such rumors at their peril.
THE FUNCTION OF THE MILITARY INTELLIGENCE DIVISION, October 1, 1918
U.S. Army Military Intelligence History: A Sourcebook, pp. 113-115.