© 2014 Earl L. Haehl: Permission is given to use this article in whole as long as credit is given. Book rights are reserved.
Politicians, prosecutors and pundits throw the term treason around like they understand it without going to the source. (Note the three sets of alliteration in the first eight words.) I went back to my scripture on the matter—The Constitution of the United States.
Article III, Section 3 reads as follows:
1: Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.
2: The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.
Since 1946, the United States have not been in a state of declared war. Therefore there is no “adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.” Otherwise the current Secretary of State could be charged with treason for carrying messages from the North Vietnamese delegation to the committee in the House of Representatives led by Ron Dellums in 1973.
In the matter of current affairs, Edward Snowden could be charged with violation of official secrets legislation, but not treason. Note that the Rosenbergs received the death sentence under the Espionage Act of 1917, but could not be charged with treason because there was no state of war with the Soviet Union. Jonathan Pollard, a civilian analyst, was convicted in 1987 of selling secrets to Israel and sentenced to life imprisonment. He is the only person sentence to life for selling secrets to an ally.
Also, Maj Nidal Hassan, an Army psychiatrist, was charged with murder under the Uniform Code of Military Justice and convicted. In court statements, Major Nidal claimed that he was at war with the United States. Had treason been charged, he could have been convicted of treason, the elements being there. Instead, the Administration, the Attorney General and Secretary of Defense chose to characterise the attack as workplace violence.