Social media, blogs, and all other forums for comment on poltical events are struggling under the weight of loud and repeated accusations that someone or another has committed treason by expressing an opinion or voting contrary to the commentator’s point of view. Treason is the ultimate “high crime.” It is the only crime defined in the Constitution, and the definition set forth by the Framers is a narrow one. Article III, Section 3, says:
Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.
Of these twenty-four words, two are key: “War” and “Enemies”. According to the federal courts that have had occasion to consider the crime of treason, “War” means war in the ordinary sense of the word, and “Enemies” means the opposing party in a declared war.
Neither expressions of opinion, nor voting for or against a particular piece of legislation, nor firing or not firing a controversial government official constitute “treason.” Commentators should find another word to convey their scorn and displeasure. Calling such acts “treason” just diminishes the force of the argument.