Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Snowden did not commit treason and thus is not a traitor

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In fact, he was observing his oath to protect and defend the US Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Dylan Matthews writes in the Washington Post:

“I don’t look at this as being a whistleblower. I think it’s an act of treason.” — Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).

“An act of treason.” — Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.).

“He’s a traitor.” – House Speaker John Boehner (R-Oh.).

Asked whether he agreed with Nelson’s description of Snowden’s leak as an act of treason, [Georgia Republican Sen. Saxby] Chambliss replied: “If it’s not, it’s pretty damn close.”

“This guy thinks he has a higher morality, that he can see clearer than other 299,999,999  of us, and therefore he can do what he wants. I say that is the worst form of treason.” — former U.N. ambassador John Bolton.

That’s just a handful of the accusations of treason that have been leveled against NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden since his identity became public Sunday. Basically all of them misunderstand what the word “treason” means.

As Scott Bomboy of the National Constitution Center — a nonpartisan organization and museum in Philadelphia — notes, Article Three, Section Three of the Constitution defines treason as follows:

“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. 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.”

Carlton Larson, a law professor at UC-Davis, explains that this sets up two avenues for treason prosecutions. One is the “aid and comfort” path, wherein somebody aiding a country waging war on the U.S. can be charged, and the other is the “levying war” path, wherein one is charged for actively waging war against the United States, or an individual state.

For example, John Brown, the abolitionist revolutionary who staged the raid on Harpers Ferry, was convicted of treason against the state of Virginia, not against the United States. Aaron Burr, Thomas Jefferson’s first vice president, was laterprosecuted by the Jefferson administration for treason for allegedly assembling forces to create an independent country in the center of North America, encompassing some Western states as well as Mexican territory. Both of those were “levying war” prosecutions.

It seems obvious that Snowden’s actions don’t qualify as levying war against the U.S. “All the levying war cases require an assemblage of men and force,” Larson explains. “I’ve never heard of a levying war prosecution that was just about releasing some documents.”

But that still leaves open the “aid and comfort” provision. Even that, however, has its limits. For example, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 June 2013 at 11:16 am

Posted in Law, NSA

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