When does intentionally discrediting the executive branch rise to the level of treason?
When the U.S. president is constantly defending himself and his administration against unrelenting attacks by a political faction amount to giving aid and comfort to the enemy?
Rivals once maintained a veneer of courtesy that allowed the president to conduct the business of the United States without being targeted for opprobrium that once was the refuge of such propagandists as Axis Sally or Tokyo Rose.
Is purposefully undermining the chief executive of the United States tantamount to treason? Should those who engage in such practices be subject to arrest and trial on that charge?
This is another one of those slippery slope questions... I can certainly understand your frustrations, but there are some problems with trying people for treason based on this. First of all, if a president or administration does bad things, do we really want the possibility of being tried and found guilty of treason for taking on an administration? It seems to me that could backfire and create more problems than it would solve, because fear would cause people to not speak out against injustices.
That being said, I think the real answer to our problems is to not give corporations the same rights as "people" because we are feeding the very propaganda machines that are undermining us. Corruption is present at all levels of govt. across all parties and until we do something about that we are going to be in real trouble regardless of who is president, because it will be more of the same. There is no incentive now for any of our elected reps to work together as the public servants they are supposed to be - it's all about working for who bought and paid for you and to retain your seat as long as possible.
We need term limits, limited special interest funding, and a long waiting period before a former sitting Senator/Congressman etc can work as a lobbyist themselves. That I think is the key to solving many of these issues.
I'm not sure where the tipping point is, but am pretty certain it occurred some time back ....
When the constitution was written, the founders intentionally changed the definition of treason. In English circles, criticizing the person of the ruling regent was viewed as treason. In the States, that definition was intentionally altered by James Wilson. The new definition allowed criticism of the executive. Treason is defined in Article III section III as "Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving aid and comfort."
With that definition, treason occurs when someone attacks one of the States or helping people to do so. With such a definition, there is NO LIMIT to the discrediting of the executive branch that is allowed. In other words, people can say whatever they want with impunity and it is NOT treasonous at all. People who speak out are exercising their freedoms. Arresting them or charging them would be against the constitution and be a major form of censorship.
And if you were to tell that to Axis Sally, Tokyo Rose or any of the other 11, I think, Americans who were tried for treason after World War II, I suspect that they would take issue.
My understanding of Tokyo Rose, Axis Sally and Robert Best, who were the only ones convicted were each arrested in foreign countries at war which would fall under the adhering to their enemies clause.
No comparison, at all, can be made between the actions of Tokyo Rose, et al and all of the Americans who are being critical of Obama today. Only in such places as Cuba, No. Korea and Red China is it treasonous to be critical of a nat'l leader.
"Intentionally discrediting the executive branch" never rises to the level of treason.
If the oppostie of that were true, a whole lot of liberals and other left-wingers would have been sent to the gallows when Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush were the Presidents of the U.S.
It is unfortunate that political rhetoric has come to include outright lies and disinformation campaigns. And a US citizen directing that against the US government certainly fits two dictionary definitions of treason: 2. a violation of allegiance to one's sovereign or to one's state. 3. the betrayal of a trust or confidence; breach of faith; treachery.
However, it does not meet the definition of the type of treason which is illegal, which would be a plan or effort to overthrow the government by violent force, or by assassination. Damaging false statements are libelous and slanderous, and thus subject to civil court action, but are free speech protected under the first amendment of the US constitution, and, thus, are not illegal.
Unfortunately, there is a large gray area of ineffective and destructive false speech that is not treasonous or criminal. Not engaging in such actions is a moral duty of any US citizen. With great freedom comes great responsibility. In my view, effective government of our nation has become impossible due to the misuse of rights protected under the Constitution. Treating those actions as treasonous would end the Constitutional democracy in the United States. I prefer that we not replace dysfunctional government with repressive government.
George Washington addressed this issue in his farewell address. Abraham Lincoln saw that the United States could only be destroyed from within. These problems are not new. I think ChristinS is right in saying we started down the slippery slope to this destruction when corporations were given the same constitutional rights as people. But that was way back in the 1800s. I do not see a solution. But I believe that every American citizen can become part of a collective solution by becoming well educated, especially by focusing on the ability to detect lies and manipulative rhetoric when they are being used. And that brings us back to Thomas Jefferson, who saw that an educated electorate is essential to the survival of a democracy.
We need to keep the apples and oranges separate. When Clive is putting forth the question of arresting people and putting them on trial, we need to use the legal definition of what 'treason' is based on USCON, rather than a dictionary definition.
Agreed, Sue St. Clair - that was my point, and if it wasn't clear, my apologies!
Thank you. I appreciate your reasoned response.
I agree with everything you said except I would remove the "unfortunately"'s. I would also argue that our government is effective. It is not perfect, but nothing humans create will ever be perfect. We're doing pretty darn well.
I agree with some of your answer, but I have to say that being educated does not make any of us wiser. The educated make just as many ridiculous comments as the uneducated, they just have more schooling behind them.
First, the person now occupying the Oval Office is a usurper, a false pretender.
He has done more to destroy America than any before him. And, he has done what none before him as ever done in the amount of money and power he gives away to his friends.
BHO is a traitor to America. It is HE who should be tried for treason. Anyone speaking out on this is a patriot.
You need to see the video by Jack Welch of the Birch Society. He plainly explained, 50 years ago, that they are trying to destroy America by spending as pointlessly as possible.
Ah yes, because GWB was such a role model, tying the United States into 2 wars under the false pretenses created by a terrorist attack. And deregulating the banks was a great move; didn't destroy the economy of crash the housing market. Yeah, great.
You're a pretender Man from Modesto. How's your Russian dating life?
Speaking as a black man, Barack Obama is U.S. blacks' worst enemy. And there are no if's, and's or but's about that. Because of his actions, millions of blacks have fallen deeper into the pit of despair that they have always occupied.
Discrediting the executive branch rises to the level of treason when you are ruled by a dictator. Hitler had his officers swear a personal oath to him. China's Communist Party broaches no criticism of the party and the state. Where the rulers are safe from criticism, the people are neither safe nor free.
The Federalists at the beginning of the republic took the view many of the posts here have. Verbal attacks on a president and his administration can cross a line into treason, and they should be treated so. They passed the Alien and Sedition Acts in 1798 to criminalize strong criticism of some officials, and then used them exclusively against Jefferson's Republicans.
Public outrage over that blatant attempt to suppress dissent was one of the forces behind Jefferson's victory in the presidential election of 1800. The Sedition Acts expired.
Woodrow Wilson revived such long discredited law with his Espionage Act of 1917 and Sedition Act of 1918. Due to the cultural bias against suppression of political speech that arose with the Federalists' attempt to pull it off, neither law was much used prior to the Obama Administration, which has brought them out of the closet to apply to more federal employees than all previous administrations combined. This white house, too, is using those laws politically, to silence leaks putting themselves into a bad light, though they routinely leak information they feel may benefit their own political interests. Clearly sedition laws are subverted to corrupt purposes, or they have been both times they have been tried in the United States.
It is for that reason that Americans still dislike them so that much as it would wish the government is powerless to apply them to silence private US citizens. In American law there is no real line beyond which criticism of the executive branch crosses into treason. Americans are free to say whatever they like, the defamation and clear public harm laws respected.
I am unaware of the White House silencing critics this way or that there is evidence of the White House routinely leaking information. Are you thinking of specific instances? I hope that you are not including the Manning case.
Jake Tapper once addressed the matter in a press briefing. Jay Carney evaded it.
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/27/busin … ation.html
You are asking a question that crosses over the first amendment allowing free speech. I do not think questioning or opposing acts of the president that are in the public domain are treasonous.
If a person sees or acquires a classified document, that can possible be treason, but not always, as we found out with the Pentagon Papers back during the Watergate era.
The Office of the President deserves a certain level of respect, whether you like the person or not. Respect is one of those resources that is becoming in short supply in this country.
If the president announces a troop withdrawal, you have a right to voice your opinion. If the president changes his mind, you have the right to voice an opinion.
If the president declines to disclose the results of discussions with other national leaders, you may object, but he is exercising his executive privileges.
I am not a lawyer. I was always taught that treason involved something to do with the hostile or forcible overthrow of the government. Sometimes remarks may violate the National Security Act and similar laws, but not meet the definition of treason.
We can all voice opinions, but we wil never know until if and win such a case goes to trial.
Civility is a perogative of democracy and not a prerequisite of citizenship. If criticism of the our chief executive constitutes repercusion of any kind then democracy is anything but. Because we are sometimes rude, obnoxious or display ouselves in bad taste is not treasoness, it is an expression of our freedom to act as noble men or idiots, which ever suits our glorious fancy!
You know, this is a good question. I was raised in a military family. We were taught to work hard to get our person elected. After the election, no matter what, the winner becomes the Commander-in-Chief. Now, it is our duty to follow orders, do our job and keep our mouth shut.
Next election, we will do all we can to get the no good SOB out of there. Get it? It may not be treason that could be prosecuted successfully, but it is inappropriate and off task.
I just wonder how well we could do if we all pulled together. Any idiot knows what to do.
A President is only the Commander-in-Chief of the military. He is not the Commander-in-Chief of the people. Therefore, opposite of what is the case for military personnel, we are not required to stand behind him and do whatever he tells us to do.
Our congressmen are not puppets of the president. He is not the king of the country and as free people we have the right to criticize anyone that we want to criticize. I think that people should be more concerned with the congress and the president raising debt to dangerous levels that empower our enemies.
Thank you. I can't believe people want to throw away our freedoms because they are thin skinned and can't take hearing opposing viewpoints. "A house divided against itself cannot stand" is great rhetoric, but we're standing just fine.
DEBT is killing us faster than racists are...
As for Congress that's where we can fix things but not unless we put citizen legislators in who want to get to work and get out of Washington.We are term limits so lets start acting like it!
All you need to do is look up the statute on treason. Someone cites it below.
I'm sorry if criticism of the President offends you, but that is the way of freedom. Some people get offended. I get offended when people use big words for no good reason. I even wrote a sarcastic Hub about it, but I don't advocate outlawing it.
You might want to Wikipedia Tokyo Rose. The most well-known Tokyo Rose, Iva Ikuko Toguri D'Aquino, was a loyal American stranded behind enemy lines.
What are the "lies" and "distortions" you are specifically pointing toward...generalities always cloud the waters.
When performed by whom? When performed by the President himself or some outside source?
Not knowing the context I will answer both ways.
When performed by the President himself it would be, (in my eyes at least) the moment national security is compromised in a measurable way or at any point a violation of the Constitution or law is breached. (measurable as defined by what or who? Not sure... which leave a huge questions mark in everyone's minds.)
When performed by an outside source I would say the same, with the understanding that leaking information about a leak and leaking actual information that would rise to those same standards, are two different things. If someone is "whistle-blowing" about leaks from the White House they have committed no offense, but if they reprint or broadcast the leaked information, say like the NY Times did under the Bush administration about how we were tracking terrorist money lines, then that is treason in my mind. If freedom of speech means no yelling fire in a theater then freedom of the press should include not telling the enemy how we are tracking them.
If you are referring directly to the "alleged" (which in Washington means "true") leaks coming from the White House lately which have been characterized as designed to make the President appear more concerned about national security, then I would say we have two groups who should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, both the person leaking the information and the news outlets offering it up for both political and financial gain in the form of selling papers.
But what would I know; I'm just an Average American.
Treason is really in the eye of the beholder.
To criticize a president, Congressman or Woman or to criticize a state governor is a fundamental right of free thinking and free speaking people.
There are times when I have found the almost constant harping at various presidents faults almost nauseating. But if you look at history, Can we think of any president during their terms of office who were not criticized and had to defend almost every action. From George Washington onward, who was seen by some as over-bearing and self centered. Being criticized by the general population comes with political power in any free nation.
Long live the right to criticize without fear.
Criticizing a form of government belongs in politics. It is not a crime. It is a crime to despots or dictators, that is to the person who is lawmaker and judge at the same time. The office, executive branch or presidency, is separate and different from the person occupying it. Of course there are limits to ciriticism like libel. However, criticism as powerplay to gain more votes is alright. Treason is a crime that is defined in laws and any act that transgresses such laws can be subject of complaint in the court of law and be tried.
The founding fathers were very carefull to define treason within specific action that has nothing to do with political affiliation or belief. Can't allow tyrannny to raise its head on the mere disapporval of those who oppose.him or her
Treason is not related to speech, otherwise I would have sent to prison for all the terrible things that I named G.W. Bush during his term
Being disrepecfful does not rise to 'treasonous" but I will say that the disrepect toward this president has been without precident
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