Treason

Author:Jeffrey Lehman, Shirelle Phelps
 
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The betrayal of one's own country by waging war against it or by consciously or purposely acting to aid its enemies.

The Treason Clause traces its roots back to an English statute enacted during the reign of Edward III (1327?1377). This statute prohibited levying war against the king, adhering to his enemies, or contemplating his death. Although this law defined treason to include disloyal and subversive thoughts, it effectively circumscribed the crime as it existed under the COMMON LAW. During the thirteenth century, the crime of treason encompassed virtually every act contrary to the king's will and became a political tool of the Crown. Building on the tradition begun by Edward III, the Founding Fathers carefully delineated the crime of treason in Article III of the U.S. Constitution, narrowly defining its elements and setting forth stringent evidentiary requirements.

Under Article III, Section 3, of the Constitution, any person who levies war against the United States or adheres to its enemies by giving them AID AND COMFORT has committed treason within the meaning of the Constitution. The term aid and comfort refers to any act that manifests

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a betrayal of allegiance to the United States, such as furnishing enemies with arms, troops, transportation, shelter, or classified information. If a subversive act has any tendency to weaken the power of the United States to attack or resist its enemies, aid and comfort has been given.

The Treason Clause applies only to disloyal acts committed during times of war. Acts of dis-loyalty during peacetime are not considered treasonous under the Constitution. Nor do acts of ESPIONAGE committed on behalf of an ally constitute treason. For example, JULIUS AND ETHEL ROSENBERG were convicted of espionage, in 1951, for helping the Soviet Union steal atomic secrets from the United States during WORLD WAR II. The Rosenbergs were not tried for treason because the United States and the Soviet Union were allies during World War II.

Under Article III a person can levy war against the United States without the use of arms, weapons, or military equipment. Persons who play only a peripheral role in a conspiracy to levy war are still considered traitors under the Constitution if an armed rebellion against the United States results. After the U.S. CIVIL WAR, for example, all Confederate soldiers were vulnerable to charges of treason, regardless of their role in the secession or...

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