Analysis: Treason is serious business, despite how its used in our discourse

But it’s serious business, so much so that it’s the only crime specifically described in the Constitution itself: “Treason against the United States,” says Article III, “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 word “only” – that treason shall “consist only” of certain specified acts – was crucial to the drafters of the Constitution. In England, treason was “abused as a way of getting at the King’s enemies,” Columbia Law School’s Richard Briffault explained to Business Insider. “And so I think the special requirements of proof, and the specific definition of treason . . . was a way of narrowing the definition of what treason is.”

You wouldn’t know that from current political discourse.


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