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Treason

TREASON

Article III, Section 3 of the Constitution of the United States provides:

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.

State constitutions today contain similar limiting definitions of treason against a state. Since national independence there has been almost no action or doctrinal development under the state provisions; the law of treason in the United States has been almost wholly the product of the national Constitution and decisions of federal courts.

Treason is the only crime defined in the Constitution, and basic to the treatment of this offense has been a mingling of values protective of government and of individuals. The crime of treason strikes at the foundations of the legal order and deals with the most serious threats to the existence of the state. Congress has reflected this judgment in prescribing penalties that may mount to death or life imprisonment. Where charges have fallen plainly within the bounds of the constitutional definition, judges have firmly applied the law. On the other hand, the limiting language of the Constitution (treason shall consist "only" in the two named forms of the offense), constitutional history, and the responses of judges bear witness to a restrictive approach in marking the outer boundaries of the crime. Thus the treason clause not only protects the security of the legal order but is functionally analogous to the Bill of Rights, protecting the civil liberties of individuals.

The restrictive dimension departs from the main directions of the statute and case law in England and in this country before 1789, which gave clear primacy to the security of government, often to serve the interests of those holding official power at a given time. Into the late eighteenth century, English political history was marked by aggressive resort to charges of treason as weapons of partisan conflict, with much vindictive prosecution and loose use of evidence. Security in the most elemental sense was at stake for the English colonies in North America under the threat of the French and Indian Wars, and in the new states torn through the Revolution by bitter divisions between those loyal to the Crown and those asserting independence. Thus the legislation of the colonies and of the new states in the Revolutionary years was studded with broad and sometimes vague definitions of subversion, in sharp contrast to the limited definition written into the national Constitution.

Records from the framing and ratification of the Constitution contain little information about the treason clause. But what is there shows sensitivity to lessons drawn from English experience of the dangers that loose resort to treason prosecutions might present to individual and political liberty. Two fears were prominent: that holders of official power would misuse the treason charge to suppress peaceful political opposition and destroy those who were out of official favor, and that under the dread charge popular fear and emotion might be stirred to produce convictions without proper evidence. Subsequently, federal judges recognized this restrictive background in decisions limiting extension of the offense. In Cramer v. United States, 325 U.S. 1, 47 (1945), the first treason case to reach the United States Supreme Court, the Court reaffirmed the restrictive construction of the scope of treason.

Elements of the offense

Three key elements are necessary for an offense to constitute treason: an obligation of allegiance to the legal order, and intent and action to violate that obligation. Treason is a breach of allegiance and of the faithful support a citizen owes to the sovereignty within which he lives. A citizen of the United States who is subject to the law of a foreign state may owe allegiance to that state at the same time he owes fealty to the United States. But this dual nationality does not relieve him of obligation to refrain from volunteering aid or comfort to the foreign nation if it is at war with the United States. Although the matter has not been presented to a court in this country, an individual present here and enjoying the nation's protection owes it his obedience while he is resident, and thus may be guilty of treason if he commits what would be the offense when done by a citizen.

Wrongful intent. Wrongful intent is a necessary element of the crime of treason, varying in character according to which of the two forms of the offense is in issue. To be guilty of levying war against the United States, the individual must intend to use organized force to overthrow the government. Under older, broad doctrines of treason in English law, intent by group force to prevent or overcome enforcement of a particular statute or other lawful order or to obtain any particular group benefit contrary to law was treason. A similar tendency was shown in two early American instances involving violent group resistance: the first, to a federal excise on whiskey (the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794), and the second, to a property excise (Fries's Rebellion of 1799); in both, federal courts found treason. However, the later interpretation is that no intent short of intent to overthrow the government suffices to constitute the offense. After the Homestead Riot of 1892 several labor leaders were indicted for levying war against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. But the indictments were later quietly dropped, and use of the treason charge met with prompt and unanimous criticism from conservative jurists. Violent group actions short of challenge to the existence of the government are now treated as riot or unlawful assembly.

Adhering to an enemy requires intent to render the enemy tangible support ("aid and comfort"). Long-established doctrine has defined enemies as only those against whom a legally declared state of war exists. However, in the twentieth century the reality of such undeclared shooting hostilities as the Korean War raises questions about the older limitation. That the accused may have acted with mixed purposes, such as to make money by selling goods to the enemy, does not rebut existence of the requisite intent for treason, if one of his purposes was in fact to render performance useful to the enemy. In many crimes the law holds an individual responsible as intending the foreseeable consequences of his conduct, even though he pleads that he did not mean to bring about the particular outcome for which he is charged. In treason cases, however, the prosecution must prove that the accused had a specific intent to levy war or aid enemies. This requirement does not necessitate proof by explicit statement or direct admission of guilty purpose; the prosecution may prove the guilty intent by strong inference from the context of the accused's behavior.

Overt act. The commission of some overt act to effect a treasonable purpose is a distinct element of the crime that the government must prove in addition to proving wrongful intent. The most striking, restrictive feature of the Constitution's definition of treason was the omission of any analogue of that branch of old English law that punished one who would "compass or imagine the death of our lord the King" (Treason Act, 1351, 25 Edw. 3, stat. 5, c. 2 (England)). The Crown had used this charge to suppress not only action likely to lead to the king's death, but also the mere speaking or writing of views critical of exercise of royal authority. Pursuing that line, the government obtained convictions of individuals because the "natural" consequences of their speaking or writing might endanger the state.

The calculated omission of this feature in the definition of the crime emphasized the need to show specific intent to prove treason as defined in the United States. Moreover, the omission underlines the need to prove substantial action by the accused. The function of the overt act element, said the Supreme Court in Cramer, is to ensure "that mere mental attitudes or expressions should not be treason"; the prosecution must show that the accused moved from the realm of thought, plan, or opinions into the world of action. However, the Supreme Court's treatment of the act element has clouded this requirement. In Cramer the Court seemed to say that the act must itself be evidence of the treasonable intent, a position apparently contrary to the general insistence that the intent and act elements are distinct. In Haupt v. United States, 330 U.S. 631 (1947), the Court clarified the matter somewhat: behavior proved by the required testimony of two witnesses need not indicate wrongful intent. But where the charge was aiding the enemy, if the proven overt act can be demonstrated to have given aid to the enemy only when appraised in light of evidence of other conduct of the accused, then that other conductas well as the particular overt actmust be proved by two witnesses. On the other hand, to prove the offense, it is not necessary to show that the accused succeeded in delivering aid to the enemy; it is enough that he took overt action to attempt delivery. More than mere planning must be shown. To establish treason by levying war, the government must prove an armed assembly; conspiracy alone does not prove the crime.

Application of the law in the United States

Since national independence, fewer than fifty cases involving the application of the law of treason as defined in the national or state constitutions have been brought to court in the United States. A tally of the thirty-eight major instances indicates that the cautious moderation sought by those who wrote the Constitution has been fulfilled in practice. Only eight cases show what critics might call broad interpretations of the offense; sixteen cases fall within explicit dimensions of the crime as set forth in the Constitution; in fourteen instances judges have taken a restrictive approach, refusing to enlarge the reach of the offense. This record suggests regard for the restrictive aspects of the constitutional history and probably indicates that by and large the country has enjoyed substantial political stability. In any event, the record shows little vindictive resort to the charge of treason, and few cases carrying politically controversial tones.

During the American Revolution most actions taken against British Loyalists were to confiscate property. Treason cases arising out of the Whiskey Rebellion, Fries's Rebellion, the Burr conspiracy, Jefferson's Embargo Act, and resistance to enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Law grew out of differences over domestic political issues. Decisions in these cases were rendered in 1795, 1800, 1807, 1808, and 1851, respectively, but were of limited practical impact. Treason prosecutions by state authorities incident to the Dorr Rebellion in Rhode Island (1842) and John Brown's raid (1859) were exceptional because of their broad political repercussions. Because of the scale of the Civil War there was no resort to prosecution for treason, although clearly supporters of the seceded states levied war against the United States. Some cases had tones of domestic ideological conflict over the country's entry into World War I. In United States v. Werner, 247 F. 708, 710711 (E.D. Pa. 1918), the defendant was indicted for treason by giving aid to the enemy through publication of newspaper stories unfavorable to the cause of the United States. The trial court ruled for the government on the demurrer. On appeal, the Supreme Court disposed of the case on other grounds, but its opinion made clear that the prosecution carried a strong ideological tone (Schaefer v. United States, 251 U.S. 466 (1920)). But this cast was notably absent from treason prosecutions incident to World War II.

In the practice of Congress and in decisions of the courts, the constitutional definition of treason has never barred creation of other statutory offenses involving subversion of the legal order. Thus, United States v. Rosenberg, 195 F. 2d 583 (2d Cir. 1952) held that the defendants were validly convicted of conspiracy to violate the federal Espionage Act, 18 U.S.C. § 794 (1976) by communicating protected information to the USSR. However, established doctrine forbids Congress to enlarge beyond the constitutional definition the kinds of conduct that may be punished as treason, and assures the protection of the two-witness requirement where the charged conduct amounts to levy of war or adherence to enemies. Nonetheless, legislators might seek to punish it under another name. Loose use of the epithet treason amid the Cold War emotions of the 1950s showed that there was still potential power in the dread cry as a weapon of partisan or ideological combat. But the limits set by the constitutional definition have curbed resort to treason prosecutions to suppress or harass peaceful, legitimate political competition.

James Willard

Hurst Dan M. Kahan

See also Conspiracy; Federal Bureau of Investigation: History; Federal Criminal Jurisdiction; Sedition and Domestic Terrorism.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Abrams, Stuart E. "Threats to the President and the Constitutionality of Constructive Treason." Columbia Journal of Law and Social Problems 12, no. 3 (1976): 351392.

Chapin, Bradley. The American Law of Treason: Revolutionary and Early National Origins. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1964.

Hill, L. M. "The Two-Witness Rule in English Treason Trials: Some Comments on the Emergence of Procedural Law." American Journal of Legal History 12 (1968): 95111.

Hurst, James Willard. The Law of Treason in the United States: Collected Essays. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1971.

Rehnquist, William H. All the Laws but One: Civil Liberties in Wartime. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1998.

. "Civil Liberty and the Civil War: The Indianapolis Treason Trials." Indiana Law Journal 72 (1997): 927937.

Simon, Walter G. "The Evolution of Treason." Tulane Law Review 35, no. 4 (1961): 667704.

Stillman, Arthur M., and Arner, Frederick R. Federal Case Law concerning the Security of the United States. 83d Cong., 2d sess. Printed for use of the Special Subcommittee on Security Affairs. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1954.

Wiener, Frederick Bernays. "Uses and Abuses of Legal History: A Practitioner's View." Law Society's Gazette 59, no. 6 (1962): 311315.

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HURST, JAMES WILLARD; KAHAN, DAN M.. "Treason." Encyclopedia of Crime and Justice. 2002. Encyclopedia.com. 25 Jun. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Treason

TREASON

TREASON. Traditionally, treason was betrayal of the state, which, in most countries meant the monarch. A person who commits treason is a traitor. However, the framers of the U.S. Constitution chose to adopt a restricted definition of treason, making it the only term defined in the body of the Constitution. James Wilson was the principal author of the provision:

Art. III Sec. 3: 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.

Their reason for defining treason was the common English practice of charging political opponents with a capital offense, often on weak evidence, under the doctrine of "constructive treason." A classic case was the trial of Algernon Sidney, beheaded in 1683 for plotting against the king. The case against him was based largely on passages from his treatise, Discourses Concerning Government, which was not even published until after his death, in 1698. The term treason was familiar in the common law before it was used in the Statute of 25 Edward III (1350), from which the Constitution derives its language concerning the levying of war and adhering to enemies, giving them aid and comfort. However, the Constitution's treason clause contains no provision analogous to that by which the Statute of Edward III penalized the compassing (intending) of the king's death, since in a republic there is no monarch and the people are sovereign. Charges of treason for compassing the king's death had been the main instrument used in England for the most drastic, "lawful" suppression of political opposition or the expression of ideas or beliefs distasteful to those in power.

The Statute of 7 William III (1694) introduced the requirement of two witnesses to the same or different overt acts of the same treason or misprision (concealment) of treason, made several exceptions to what could be considered treason, and protected the right of the accused to have copies of the indictment and proceedings against him, to have counsel, and to compel witnesses—privileges not previously enjoyed by those accused of common law crimes. This statute served as a model for colonial treason statutes.

The first major cases under the U.S. Constitution arose from an 1807 conspiracy led by Aaron Burr, who had served as vice president under Thomas Jefferson in 1801–1805. The conspirators planned to seize parts of Mexico or the newly acquired Louisiana Territory. Burr and two confederates, Bollman and Swartwout, were charged with treason.

Chief Justice John Marshall opened the door for making actions other than treason a crime in Ex parte Bollman when he held that the clause does not prevent Congress from specifying other crimes of a subversive nature and prescribing punishment, so long as Congress is not merely attempting to evade the restrictions of the treason clause. But he also stated, "However flagitious [villainous] may be the crime of conspiring to subvert by force the government of our country, such conspiracy is not treason. To conspire to levy war, and actually to levy war, are distinct offences. The first must be brought into open action by the assemblage of men for a purpose treasonable in itself, or the fact of levying war cannot have been committed. So far has this principle been carried, that…it has been determined that the actual enlistment of men to serve against the government does not amount to levying of war." On the basis of these considerations and because no part of the crime charged had been committed in the District of Columbia, the Court held that Bollman and Swartwout could not be tried in the District and ordered their discharge. Marshall continued by saying, "the crime of treason should not be extended by construction to doubtful cases."

Burr was acquitted 1 September 1807, after an opinion rendered by Chief Justice Marshall in U.S. v. Burr that further defined the requirements for proving treason. The Court held that Burr, who had not been present at the assemblage of men on Blennerhassett Island, could be convicted of advising or procuring a levying of war only upon the testimony of two witnesses to his having procured the assemblage, but the operation was covert and such testimony was unobtainable. Marshall's opinion made it extremely difficult to convict someone of levying war against the United States unless the person participated in actual hostilities.

The Burr and Bollman cases prompted the introduction in 1808 of a Senate bill to further define the crime of treason. The debate on that bill, which was rejected, provides insight into the original understanding of the treason clause: its purpose was to guarantee nonviolent political controversy against suppression under the charge of treason or any other criminal charge based on its supposed subversive character, and there was no constitutional authority to evade the restriction by creating new crimes under other names.

Before 1947, most cases that were successfully prosecuted were not federal trials but rather state trials for treason, notably the trials of Thomas Wilson Dorr (1844) and John Brown (1859) on charges of levying war against the states of Rhode Island and Virginia, respectively.

After the Civil War, some wanted to try Southern secessionists for treason, and former the Confederate president Jefferson Davis was charged with treason in U.S. v. Jefferson Davis. The constitutional requirement in Art. III Sec. 2 Cl. 3 that an offender be tried in the state and district where the offense was committed would have meant trying Davis in Virginia, where a conviction was unlikely, so the case was dismissed. Although the United States government regarded the activities of the Confederate States as a levying of war, the president's Amnesty Proclamation of 25 December 1868 pardoned all those who had participated on the Southern side.

Since the Bollman case, the few treason cases that have reached the Supreme Court have been outgrowths of World War II and charged adherence to enemies of the United States and the giving of aid and comfort. In the first of these, Cramer v. United States, the issue was whether the "overt act" had to be "openly manifest treason" or whether it was enough, when supported by the proper evidence, that it showed the required treasonable intention. The Court in a five to four opinion by Justice Jackson took the former view, holding that "the two witness principle" barred "imputation of incriminating acts to the accused by circumstantial evidence or by the testimony of a single witness," even though the single witness in question was the accused himself. "Every act, movement, deed, and word of the defendant charged to constitute treason must be supported by the testimony of two witnesses."

The Supreme Court first sustained a conviction of treason in 1947 in Haupt v. United States. Here it was held that although the overt acts relied upon to support the charge of treason (defendant's harboring and sheltering in his home his son who was an enemy spy and saboteur, assisting him in purchasing an automobile and in obtaining employment in a defense plant) were all acts that a father would naturally perform for a son, this fact did not necessarily relieve them of the treasonable purpose of giving aid and comfort to the enemy.

In Kawakita v. United States, the petitioner was a native-born citizen of the United States and also a national of Japan by reason of Japanese parentage and law. While a minor, he took the oath of allegiance to the United States, went to Japan for a visit on an American passport, and was prevented from returning to this country by the outbreak of war. During World War II he reached his majority in Japan, changed his registration from American to Japanese, showed sympathy with Japan and hostility to the United States, served as a civilian employee of a private corporation producing war materials for Japan, and brutally abused American prisoners of war who were forced to work there. After Japan's surrender, he registered as an American citizen, swore that he was an American citizen and had not done various acts amounting to expatriation, and returned to this country on an American passport. The question whether, on this record, Kawakita had intended to renounce American citizenship was peculiarly one for the jury, said the Court in sustaining conviction, and the jury's verdict that he had not so intended was based on sufficient evidence. An American citizen, it continued, owes allegiance to the United States wherever he may reside, and dual nationality does not alter the situation. This case is notable for extending U.S. criminal jurisdiction to the actions of U.S. civilian citizens abroad, which would have originally been considered unconstitutional.

World War II was followed by the Cold War, which resulted in political prosecutions of several persons for treason and other charges on dubious evidence. The trials of the Axis broadcasters—Douglas Chandler, Robert H. Best, Mildred Gellars as "Axis Sally," Iva Ikuko Toguri d'Aquino as "Tokyo Rose" (later pardoned by President Ford when it was revealed she had been a double agent for the allies)—and the indictment and mental commitment of Ezra Pound, muddied the jurisprudence of the treason clause. Their actions provided no significant aid or comfort to an enemy and were not committed within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States. In United States v. Rosenberg, the Court held that in a prosecution under the Espionage Act for giving aid to a country (not an enemy), an offense distinct from treason, neither the two-witness rule nor the requirement as to the overt act was applicable. However, no constitutional authority for the Espionage Act itself was proven.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Chapin, Bradley. The American Law of Treason: Revolutionary and Early National Origins. Seattle: University of Washing ton Press, 1964.

Elliot, Jonathan. Debates in the Several State Conventions on Adoption of the Federal Constitution. Philadelphia, 1836, p. 469 (James Wilson).

Hurst, James Willard. The Law of Treason in the United States: Collected Essays. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Publishing, 1971.

Kutler, Stanley I. The American Inquisition: Justice and Injustice in the Cold War. New York: Hill and Wang, 1982.

JonRoland

See alsoArnold's Treason ; Civil Rights and Liberties ; Davis, Imprisonment and Trial of ; Rosenberg Case .

Treason Trials

Ex parte Bollman, 4 Cr. (8 U.S.) 75 (1807).

United States v. Burr, 4 Cr. (8 U.S.) 469 (1807).

Annals of Congress, Tenth Congress, First Session, Senate, Debate on Treason and Other Crimes, 1808.

Wharton's State Trials of the United States (Philadelphia, 1849), and Lawson's American State Trials (17 volumes, St. Louis, 1914–1926), trials of Thomas Wilson Dorr (1844) and of John Brown (1859).

Cramer v. United States, 325 U.S. 1 (1945).

Haupt v. United States, 330 U.S. 631 (1947).

Kawakita v. United States, 343 U.S. 717 (1952).

United States v. Rosenberg, 195 F.2d 583 (2d. Cir.), cert den., 344 U.S. 889 (1952).

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Treason

Treason —betraying the nation‐state that the American military was created to defend—is among the most odious of crimes. Yet American history suggests how fine the line can be between patriot and traitor.

The founding fathers had to become traitors to their king in order to create the United States. The Declaration of Independence articulated the conditions—tyranny—under which a people might legitimately renounce their allegiance to one sovereign authority and transfer it to another.

Efforts to punish disloyalty to the new nation predated its independence. On 24 June, 1776, the Continental Congress adopted a motion by its Committee on Spies recommending that individual colonies punish those “who shall levy war against any of the said colonies … or be adherent to the King of Great Britain….” Thus authorized, the revolutionary factions in the individual colonies punished as traitors avowed Tories, along with those who uttered favorable opinions about the king, had contact with the British, or entered British‐controlled territories. The emphasis was on protecting the new nation, not the rights or intent of the accused. Punishment most often involved confiscation of property and exile. The revolutionaries justified such severity by the presumption that, as the Virginia treason statute suggested, “all countries have a Right to the personal services” of their inhabitants.

Treason was given an enduring symbol in 1780 when Gen. Benedict Arnold, disillusioned with the revolutionary cause, unsuccessfully schemed to surrender the army garrison at West Point to the British, fleeing to the British after his plot was discovered. Arnold's name remains synonymous with betrayal in American history.

The excesses of the Revolution prompted the framers of the Constitution to restrict the definition of treason to “levying war against” the United States and providing “aid and comfort” to its enemies, and to require the testimony of two witnesses “to the same overt act” and the establishment of treasonous intent for conviction. They limited punishment to the person charged, and abjured the attainder of the traitor's relatives or heirs. Thus the framers hoped to balance the security of the state with the protection of private property and individual rights and to prevent the charge of treason from becoming an instrument of political repression.

The first application of the Constitution's treason provisions occurred in 1794 with the Whiskey Rebellion. Federal troops led by George Washington quashed this challenge to central authority, and a federal circuit court condemned to death two men—whom Washington later pardoned—for treason.

A major landmark in the evolution of treason law occurred in the 1807 trial of Aaron Burr, who stood accused of attempting to establish an independent trans‐Appalachian empire. Although circumstantial evidence pointed toward the defendant's guilt, the government's inability to prove that an overt act of treason had occurred resulted in Burr's acquittal. In a victory for a narrow interpretation of the law of treason, Chief Justice John Marshall ruled that “the difficulty of proving a fact will not justify conviction without proof.”

During the Mexican War (1846–48), religious allegiance took precedence over national loyalty for several hundred Irish immigrant U.S. troops who deserted to the Mexican Army when the Mexican government appealed to them to defend Catholicism and promised them land. The “San Patricio Brigade” put up fierce resistance against U.S. units at the Battle of Churubusco before surrendering to Gen. Winfield Scott, who executed fifty of them for treason.

In 1859, John Brown and his followers, in the name of God and slave liberation, seized the Federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia, as part of a plan to establish a free guerrilla state. Although Brown had attacked U.S. property, Governor Henry Wise had the conspirators tried for treason against Virginia. This assertion of state jurisdiction reflected the assumptions that soon produced the secession of the Southern states in 1861, the most significant act of treason in American history. Suppression of the rebellion was based on the assumption that the Union was permanent and that secession from it could never be justified.

Although the Constitution defines treason strictly, Congress has expanded the definition of treasonous behavior by legislation such as the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 and and the Espionage and Sedition Acts of World War I (1917; 1918), which punished political expression deemed hazardous to the state. Both sets of legislation proved controversial. The acts of 1798 provoked the violent opposition of the emerging Jeffersonian Republican Party and facilitated the election of Thomas Jefferson as president in 1801. The acts of 1917–18 legitimated a government crackdown on dissent of all kinds and foreshadowed the crisis atmosphere of the Red Scare of the 1920s.

The Cold War saw the charge of treason used to build political careers and silence dissent. Congressman Richard M. Nixon first came to prominence in 1948 investigating a State Department employee, Alger Hiss, for his alleged activities as a Communist Party contact in the 1930s. In 1952, Senator Joseph McCarthy, alleging “twenty years of treason,” launched his campaign to eliminate alleged traitors in the federal government. McCarthyism made dissent tantamount to treason. Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were convicted and executed in 1953 for passing secrets to the Soviets, were condemned by many for being traitors.

Jonathan Pollard, a Defense Department analyst convicted in 1985 of passing vital secrets to Israel, remains incarcerated in spite of continued pressure from the Israeli government for his release. The quantity and importance of the information Pollard leaked constitutes one of the most significant security breaches in U.S. history.

In recent years, treason has tended to be committed for monetary gain rather than ideological commitment. Typical of this trend are Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officials Aldrich Ames and Harold James Nicholson. Ames, before being discovered in 1994, passed extensive information on U.S. intelligence operatives abroad to Soviet and Russian agents. Nicholson, who confessed in March 1997 to passing secrets to the Russians, is the highest ranking CIA employee to be caught spying.
[See also Patriotism.]

Bibliography

Nathaniel Weyl , Treason: The Story of Disloyalty and Betrayal in American History, 1950.
Bradley Chapin , The American Law of Treason: Revolutionary and Early National Origins, 1964.
James Willard Hurst , The Law of Treason in the United States: Collected Essays, 1971.

William Earl Weeks

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John Whiteclay Chambers II. "Treason." The Oxford Companion to American Military History. 2000. Encyclopedia.com. 25 Jun. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

John Whiteclay Chambers II. "Treason." The Oxford Companion to American Military History. 2000. Encyclopedia.com. (June 25, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O126-Treason.html

John Whiteclay Chambers II. "Treason." The Oxford Companion to American Military History. 2000. Retrieved June 25, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O126-Treason.html

Treason

TREASON

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 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 insurrection of the Southern states. No treason charges were filed against these soldiers, however, because President andrew johnson issued a universal amnesty.

The crime of treason requires a traitorous intent. If a person unwittingly or unintentionally gives aid and comfort to an enemy of the United States during wartime, treason has not occurred. Similarly, a person who pursues a course of action that is intended to benefit the United States but mistakenly helps an enemy is not guilty of treason. Inadvertent disloyalty is never punishable as treason, no matter how much damage the United States suffers.

As in any other criminal trial in the United States, a defendant charged with treason is presumed innocent until proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Treason may be proved by a voluntary confession in open court or by evidence that the defendant committed an overt act of treason. Each overt act must be witnessed by at least two people, or a conviction for treason will not stand. By requiring this type of direct evidence, the Constitution minimizes the danger of convicting an innocent person and forestalls the possibility of partisan witch-hunts waged by a single adversary.

Unexpressed seditious thoughts do not constitute treason, even if those thoughts contemplate a bloody revolution or coup. Nor does the public expression of subversive opinions, including vehement criticism of the government and its policies, constitute treason. The first amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right of all Americans to advocate the violent overthrow of their government unless such advocacy is directed toward inciting imminent lawless action and is likely to produce it (Brandenburg v. Ohio, 395 U.S. 444, 89 S. Ct. 1827, 23 L. Ed. 2d 430 [1969]). On the other hand, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the distribution of leaflets protesting the draft during world war i was not constitutionally protected speech (schenck v. united states, 249 U.S. 47, 39 S. Ct. 247, 63 L. Ed. 470 [1919]).

Because treason involves the betrayal of allegiance to the United States, a person need not be a U.S. citizen to commit treason under the Constitution. Persons who owe temporary allegiance to the United States can commit treason. aliens who are domiciliaries of the United States, for example, can commit traitorous acts during the period of their domicile. A subversive act does not need to occur on U.S. soil to be punishable as treason. For example, Mildred Gillars, a U.S. citizen who became known as Axis Sally, was convicted of treason for broadcasting demoralizing propaganda to Allied forces in Europe from a Nazi radio station in Germany during World War II.

Treason is punishable by death. If a death sentence is not imposed, defendants face a minimum penalty of five years in prison and a $10,000 fine (18 U.S.C.A. § 2381). A person who is convicted of treason may not hold federal office at any time thereafter.

The English common law required defendants to forfeit all of their property, real and personal, upon conviction for treason. In some cases, the British Crown confiscated the property of immediate family members as well. The common law also precluded convicted traitors from bequeathing their property through a will. Relatives were presumed to be tainted by the blood of the traitor and were not permitted to inherit from him. Article III of the U.S. Constitution outlaws such "corruption of the blood" and limits the penalty of forfeiture to "the life of the person attainted." Under this provision relatives cannot be made to forfeit their property or inheritance for crimes committed by traitorous family members.

further readings

Carlton, Eric. 1998. Treason: Meanings and Motives. Brookfield, Vt.: Ashgate.

Holzer, Henry Mark. 2002. "Why Not Call It Treason? From Korea to Afghanistan." Southern University Law Review 29 (spring).

Kmiec, Douglas W. 2002. "Try Lindh for Treason." National Review (January 21).

Spectar, J.M. 2003. "To Ban or Not to Ban an American Taliban? Revocation of Citizenship and Statelessness in a Statecentric System." California Western Law Review 39 (spring).

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"Treason." West's Encyclopedia of American Law. 2005. Encyclopedia.com. 25 Jun. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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treason

treason. For centuries the evolution of the law of treason was to extend the number of offences and the ferocity of the punishment. Petty treason (abolished in 1848) was a breach of trust, such as the murder of a parent by a child, a husband by his wife, or a master by his servant. High treason was a crime against the state which meant, in practice, against the monarch. Alfred's law declared that a man's life and property were forfeit if he plotted against the king. Edward I set the precedent for hideous punishments when Dafydd ap Gruffydd at Shrewsbury in 1283 was drawn to the gallows on a sledge, hanged, cut down while alive, disembowelled, and his head and limbs exhibited in different towns. Edward III's statute of 1352, which became the basic definition, made it treason to encompass the death of the king, or to violate the queen, the king's eldest daughter (if unmarried), or the king's eldest son's wife, and added fresh offences, such as counterfeiting the great seal or the coinage, or killing the chancellor, treasurer, or judges in the operation of their royal duties. New crises brought new offences. After the Peasants' Revolt in 1381 it was made treasonable to start a riot, Henry V made it treason to clip the coinage, and Henry VI to extort money by threatening to burn down a house. The scope of treason was widened still further by ‘constructive treason’, which allowed judges to ‘interpret’ the Act of 1352. The Tudors added more than 60 treason statutes. Henry VIII made it treason to deny his royal supremacy, or to refuse to admit it, and each of his marriages, separations, or divorces was buttressed by a fresh treason law. His daughter Elizabeth made it treason to declare her a heretic or usurper. The panic over the French Revolution produced the Treasonable Practices Act of 1795 which declared that it was treason to contemplate the use of force to make the king change his counsels or to intimidate Parliament, and a high misdemeanour, punishable by transportation, to encourage hatred or contempt of the government or constitution. The Act was made permanent in 1817 and extended to cover the prince regent.

Mitigating legislation was slow in making its appearance. An Act of 1695 allowed the defendant counsel, a copy of the indictment five days before the trial, and declared that two direct witnesses were necessary. In 1814 Romilly succeeded in carrying an Act not to cut traitors down still alive and disembowel them, though the Lords insisted that they should still be quartered. In 1870 quartering and beheading was also renounced. By the Treason Act of 1945 the procedure as in a murder trial was to apply, though by repealing the Act of 1695 the safeguard of two witnesses was removed. The first person to be tried under the new legislation and the last person to be executed as a traitor was William Joyce, ‘Lord Haw-Haw’. It was at least doubtful whether he was not an American citizen, and evidence that he had broadcast from Nazi Germany was provided by only one witness, though the accused did not deny it, and presumably thousands of witnesses might have been summoned.

J. A. Cannon

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JOHN CANNON. "treason." The Oxford Companion to British History. 2002. Encyclopedia.com. 25 Jun. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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treason

treason, legal term for various acts of disloyalty. The English law, first clearly stated in the Statute of Treasons (1350), originally distinguished high treason from petit (or petty) treason. Petit treason was the murder of one's lawful superior, e.g., murder of his master by an apprentice. High treason constituted a serious threat to the stability or continuity of the state. It included attempts to kill the king, the queen, or the heir apparent or to restrain their liberty; to counterfeit coinage or the royal seal; and to wage war against the kingdom. Especially cruel methods were used in executing traitors. Court decisions developed the English law of treason into an instrument for suppressing resistance to governmental policy. Any degree of violence in expressing opposition to parliamentary enactments was held to be a levy of war and a threat to the king's life. In the 19th cent., the English law was reformed; petit treason was abolished, cruel methods of executing traitors were forbidden, and many types of treason (e.g., counterfeiting) were made felonies that involved a lesser penalty than death. To avoid the abuses of the English law, treason was specifically defined in the U.S. Constitution (definitions of other crimes were not deemed necessary). Article 3 of the Constitution thus provides that treason shall consist only in levying war against the United States or in giving aid and comfort to its enemies and that conviction may be had only on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act or on confession in open court. There have been fewer than 40 federal prosecutions for treason and even fewer convictions. Several men were convicted of treason in connection with the Whiskey Rebellion (1794) but were pardoned by George Washington. The most famous treason trial, that of Aaron Burr in 1807, resulted in acquittal. Politically motivated attempts to convict opponents of the Jeffersonian Embargo Acts and the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 all failed. In the 20th cent., treason has become largely a wartime phenomenon, and the treason cases of World Wars I and II were of minor significance. Most states have provisions in their constitutions or statutes similar to those in the U.S. Constitution. There have been only two successful prosecutions for treason on the state level, that of Thomas Dorr in Rhode Island and that of John Brown in Virginia.

See M. Boveri, Treason in the Twentieth Century (tr. 1961); J. W. Hurst, The Law of Treason in the United States (1971); C. Pincher, Traitors (1987).

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"treason." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. 2016. Encyclopedia.com. 25 Jun. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Treason

653. Treason (See also Treachery.)

  1. Arnold, Benedict (17411801) American Revolutionary general who plotted surrender of West Point to British. [Am. Hist.: Benét, 52]
  2. Burgundy, Duke of fights for English, then joins French. [Br. Lit.: I Henry VI ]
  3. Carne, Caryl traitor to country. [Br. Lit.: Springhaven ]
  4. Christian, Colonel William executed for treason. [Br. Lit.: Peveril of the Peak, Walsh Modern, 96]
  5. Edmund a most toad-spotted traitor. [Br. Lit.: King Lear ]
  6. Nolan, Philip deserts the U.S. Army to join Burrs conspiracy. [Am. Lit.: Hale The Man Without a Country in Magill I, 553]
  7. Quisling, Vidkun (18871945) Norwegian fascist leader; persuaded Hitler to attack Norway. [Nor. Hist.: Flexner, 444]
  8. Vichy seat of collaborationist government after German occupation (1941). [Fr. Hist.: Brewer Dictionary, 1128]
  9. Wallenstein, Count powerful German general in Thirty Years War who corresponded with the Swedish enemy. [Ger. Drama: Schiller Wallenstein in Magill II, 1119]

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"Treason." Allusions--Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. 1986. Encyclopedia.com. 25 Jun. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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treason

trea·son / ˈtrēzən/ • n. (also high treason) the crime of betraying one's country, esp. by attempting to kill the sovereign or overthrow the government: they were convicted of treason. ∎  the action of betraying someone or something: doubt is the ultimate treason against faith. ∎  (petty treason) hist. the crime of murdering someone to whom the murderer owed allegiance, such as a master or husband. DERIVATIVES: trea·son·ous / ˈtrēzənəs/ adj. ORIGIN: Middle English: from Anglo-Norman French treisoun, from Latin traditio(n-) ‘handing over,’ from the verb tradere.

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"treason." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. 2009. Encyclopedia.com. 25 Jun. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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treason

treason the crime of betraying one's country, especially by attempting to kill or overthrow the sovereign or government. Formerly, there were two types of crime to which the term treason was applied: petty treason, the crime of murdering one's master, and high treason, the crime of betraying one's country. The crime of petty treason was abolished in 1828 and in modern use the term high treason is now often simply called treason.

The word is recorded from Middle English and comes via Anglo-Norman French from Latin traditio(n-) ‘handing over’.
treason of the clerks another term for trahison des clercs.

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ELIZABETH KNOWLES. "treason." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 2006. Encyclopedia.com. 25 Jun. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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treason

treason Any act the intention of which is to overthrow the recognized government or harm the head of state. Treason is an extremely serious criminal offence and is punishable by death in many countries. In Britain, treason is defined to include the infliction of death or injury on the monarch, violation of members of the royal family, levying war against the government, or giving assistance to the enemy.

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"treason." World Encyclopedia. 2005. Encyclopedia.com. 25 Jun. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Treason

400. Treason

See also 103. CRIME .

collaborationism
an act of cooperating with an invader of ones country. collaborationist, n.
perfidy
1. breach of trust, especially treachery or treason.
2. an act or instance of this. perfidious, adj.
recreancy
cowardice, treason, or disloyalty. recreant, n., adj.

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"Treason." -Ologies and -Isms. 1986. Encyclopedia.com. 25 Jun. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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treason

treason betrayal of trust XIII; violation by a subject of his allegiance XIV. ME. treison, tresoun — AN. treisoun, tres(o)un, OF. traison (mod. trahison) :- L. trāditiō, -ōn-, f. trādere deliver up, BETRAY, f. TRANS- + dāre give.
Hence treasonable perfidious XIV (chiefly Sc. till XVII).

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T. F. HOAD. "treason." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. 1996. Encyclopedia.com. 25 Jun. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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treason

treasonItalian, stallion •cañon, canyon, companion •hellion, rebellion •Kenyan •Melanesian, Micronesian, Polynesian •billion, jillion, million, modillion, multimillion, pillion, septillion, sextillion, squillion, trillion, zillion •minion, opinion, pinion •carillon • slumgullion •bunion, Bunyan, grunion, onion, Runyon •roentgen • damson • Kansan • Tarzan •blazon, brazen, emblazon, liaison, raisin •Spätlesen •reason, season, treason •arisen, grison, imprison, mizzen, prison, risen, uprisen •Pilsen • crimson • malison •benison, denizen •orison • citizen •bedizen, greisen, horizon, kaizen •Stockhausen •chosen, frozen •Lederhosen • poison • Susan •cousin, cozen, dozen •Amazon

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"treason." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. 2007. Encyclopedia.com. 25 Jun. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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