You have to hand it to MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell. On a cable channel full of sanctimonious lefties, this guy consistently outdoes his colleagues with smug, nauseating, self-righteous bunkum.
Last week was a great example, where he pompously explained that Ed Snowden could not be a "traitor," because no actual war had been declared -- but most politicians, or Americans for that matter, were too stupid to go back and read Article III of the US Constitution, as he, the Great O'Donnell did.
The only problem is, he's totally wrong, and with 5 minutes of research would have seen that it's quite possible to be charged with treason when no actual declaration of war has been made.
For example, just a few years after the Constitution was written, in 1795, twenty-four defendants were charged with treason in the Whiskey Rebellion and two convicted. In 1799, three men were convicted of treason in Fries' Rebellion . Aaron Burr was charged with treason in 1807 relating to his intrigues against Spanish Mexico, and tried before Chief Justice Marshall with a virtual all-star team of lawyers for both sides. Apparently, all were too stupid to actually read their Constitution like the Great O'Donnell, instead wasting months on a trial before Marshall construed Article III treason merely to require an "overt act" of war, leading to Burr's acquittal.
In our own time, more stupid lawyers have made the same mistakes by O'Donnell's reasoning. In 2006, American al-Qaida member Adam Gadahn, still at large, was indicted for treason. No formal declaration of war, of course, has ever been made against al-Qaida or anyone else in the Middle East.
To be sure, an Article III treason conviction is not easy, and under the law 18 USC Chapter 115, treason is closely related to similar offences, such as sedition, and rebellion, not to mention espionage (Snowden's most likely offense) But calling someone who is guilty of any of these acts "traitor" is an entirely reasonable epithet in general parlance and conveys the deserved sense of opprobrium. So would referring to someone as a traitor who carried on like Jane Fonda in 1972; even though no actual laws may have been violated.
On the other hand, someone who merely makes up non-existent loopholes in the Constitution to defend such people has only betrayed his ignorance.
Frank Friday is an attorney in Louisville, KY.