The case for treason

The case for treason

Article III, Section 3 of the Constitution details the legal definition for treason against the United States.

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.

On Friday, July 13, 2018, Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III and Assistant Attorney General Rod Rosenstein released indictments against twelve Russian military intelligence officers. The indictments accused them of being behind the cyber attacks on the DNC, DCCC, and Clinton campaign. The indictments also detailed that voter rolls were hacked. Furthermore, and important for this discussion, the indictments state that Americans were involved with these officers as being beneficiaries of their actions. One can surmise that their indictments will be arriving anon. In indicting the Russians first, Mueller is laying the legal groundwork for charging American co-conspirators.

The fact that this was a GRU (Russian military intelligence) operation is the key to determining whether or not this is treason.

An arm of a foreign nation's military attacked the United States. It didn't attack it with bombs, or guns, or ships. It attacked the United States with bits and bytes, with malware, with phishing expeditions. But it was an attack, nevertheless.

In his bid to restore Russian prestige, Vladimir Putin has been involved in an undeclared war against the West. It's an asymmetric war. Putin isn't suicidal; he doesn't want to test the West's military might. What he does instead is use the tools the West created against it. He uses the West's openness and liberal democracy to undermine it. And as the West's leader, the United States is his prime target.

The Soviet empire collapsed due to its inherent contradictions. It could never compete with a free society, economically or militarily. The US and the West buried the Warsaw Pact, not with war, but by bankrupting it. Communist command economies were unable to match Western military spending. Inefficient and sclerotic, they fell under their own weight. When Mikhail Gorbachev attempted political and economic reform, the edifice was too far gone to be salvaged. It simply crumbled.

This is the milieu out of which Putin arose. He truly does believe that the Soviet Union's demise was the greatest geopolitical calamity of the late 20th century. (In fact, the greatest geopolitical calamity of the 20th century was not the Soviet Union's end, but that the West didn't immediately move into the former Warsaw Pact with a modern Marshall Plan. But that's a topic for another day.)

Spymaster Putin wasn't going to risk annihilation by confronting the West militarily. He was going to do it by subterfuge, by shadowy arts, by subversion.

Given all this, we can be of no doubt that Putin sees this as war. His worldview is one in which Russia cannot rise unless the West is humbled. Russia cannot take its place in the sun as long as the United States stands in its way. His New Year's declaration that Russia has weapons which can evade US countermeasures is part of this strategem. No Western analyst seriously thinks that Russia has these weapons. But by baldly putting this out, he further divides electorates in the West.

We are at war. Russia's actions brook no other definition. Attacking a nation's political process is as much an act of war as the attack at Pearl Harbor. And Russia has been at this war for a decade, probing, finding weak spots, building up its arsenal, catching the US and the West unawares. Generals prepare for the last war. While we were bogged down in the Middle East, Putin was utilizing a guerilla strategy to undermine us. (And, of course, add to this the various reports that Russian hackers are probing to bring down our power grids. Why use an electromagnetic pulse when malware will do?)

If we accept that we're in an asymmetric cyber war with an enemy which seeks to harm our institutions, then does Article III, Section 3 come into play? I think it does.

If Ezra Pound can be jailed for treason merely for making broadcasts for the Axis during World War II, how much more damaging an American citizen who conspired with a foreign state to steal an election? In doing so, the very being of who were are as a nation was attacked.

The social compact is in deed more than in text. We assume certain things. We adhere to certain rules. The Constitution doesn't spell out every contingency. It is, as we have seen now, a fragile thing. Democracy is only as strong as its institutions. And if a foreign power helps a cabal seize those institutions, that is as much an act of war as flying a plane into a building.

Russia didn't cause the divisions which have riven us. Those existed before. But what Putin did was take them and heighten them to a fever pitch. And, of course, he didn't restrict himself to stoking right wing anger. The extreme left received his largesse as well. Both right and left are rife with useful idiots.

But those who actively conspired with Putin are not idiots. They did so with full awareness of what they were doing. They sided with a foreign power against their own country. Politically and morally they are traitors. And as we are in an undeclared, ghost war against Russia, then they should be held legally accountable for treason.

Russia's American co-conspirators are levying war against the United States. They are giving aid and comfort to an enemy. And the indictments are the testimony.

What Bob Mueller did today was begin to lay out the case for treason. Not for obstruction of justice, not for mere conspiracy. The Russian military conducted a cyber attack against this country. Our cities aren't in ruin. But something equally as precious is under threat: the idea of who we are as Americans. That can be just as destructive.

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