Part 1: Introduction
I am so very weary of treason.
Not, I should hasten to say, of committing treason; I’m just tired to death of hearing about it. Hearing, that is, full-throated, ill-informed, bombastic denunciations alleging Treason by People We Don’ t Like.
In this series of posts, I will examine several cases of alleged treason that have made the news in the last few years. These will include whistleblowers Edward Snowden, Bradley/Chelsea Manning, and Julian Assange; the 47 United States senators who last month published an open letter  to the government of Iran about nuclear negotiations in Lausanne; and the improvident General David Petraeus. Daniel Ellsberg will figure in this discussion, too — and if you don’t know about him, you really are in for a bit of cerebral ride.
My intent is to shed light on what treason is and is not. I hope also to bring you some facts of which you may not be aware. Ultimately, of course, my goal is to inform a reasoned discourse on an aspect of our culture that is both troubling and sure to recur with regularity.
As Isaiah  (and Lyndon Johnson ) said, “Come now, and let us reason together.”
Since I am offering a personal perspective, my experience in handling classified material is clearly relevant. I first received a security clearance in the mid-70s when serving in the United States Air Force; but it was pro forma only. My clearance was renewed and elevated in 2003 when I went to work at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Since then I have held clearances at the level of Top Secret and above at various times, and have on occasion worked with highly classified information, including raw intelligence, on a daily basis. I have no such access currently.
While at the laboratory I received special training not only in handling such information, but also in the classification process itself, and was certified as an Authorized Derivative Classifier. I have both experience and training in what makes information classified; how one is expected to handle it; and the penalties, criminal and civil, that may result from improper handling or disclosure of such material.
That said, I am not an attorney, and am not qualified to give legal advice. Please keep that in mind throughout this series, and especially Right Now as I discuss the crime of treason.
The Definition of Treason
What is treason?
The crime itself has a fabulous history in the laws of many nations. I speak, of course, as a citizen of the United States. What do our laws say?
Remarkably, treason was specifically defined in the United States Constitution, the only crime so treated. Article III Section 3 instructs us.
“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.”
The United States code at 18 USC section 2381 lays out the statutory definition. “Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adhere to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.” 
(Note that there is a separate related crime known as sedition with its own definition and sordid history that may be closer to what some “treason” accusers have in mind. But we are dealing with the precise, maximally inflammatory oft-charged treason.)
In a future post, I will give you a summary of those who have been indicted, tried for, and convicted of treason against the United States. Spoiler: it is likely a much shorter list than you imagine.
For now, I ask you to ponder: does what you know about Snowden, Manning, Assange, Petraeus, and those 47 senators match the crime I have just delineated?
Next up – Part 2: A History of Treason
Sources and Resources
 An Open Letter to the Leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran, http://www.cotton.senate.gov/sites/default/files/150309%20Cotton%20Open%20Letter%20to%20Iranian%20Leaders.pdf
 Isaiah 1:18, King James Version
 Remarks in Memorial Hall, Akron University, October 21, 1964. Retrieved from http://www.presidency.ucsb. Julie/ws/?pid=26635 on April 8, 2015.
 United States Constitution, National Archives, http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/constitution_transcript.html
 United States Code, https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/2381
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