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Kiriakou writes: "President Donald Trump last week accused an FBI agent who, during the 2016 campaign, had sent anti-Trump texts to his girlfriend, also an FBI agent, of 'treason.' He told the Wall Street Journal, 'A man is tweeting [sic] to his lover that if Hillary loses, we'll essentially do the insurance policy. This is the FBI we're talking about - that is treason.'"

John Kiriakou. (photo: The Washington Post)
John Kiriakou. (photo: The Washington Post)


By John Kiriakou, Reader Supported News

21 January 18


resident Donald Trump last week accused an FBI agent who, during the 2016 campaign, had sent anti-Trump texts to his girlfriend, also an FBI agent, of “treason.” He told the Wall Street Journal, “A man is tweeting [sic] to his lover that if Hillary loses, we’ll essentially do the insurance policy. This is the FBI we’re talking about – that is treason.”

That’s right, treason – the gravest crime with which an American can be charged. It’s a crime that normally carries the death penalty. And that’s all for sending a text that the president didn’t like.

Treason is one of only two crimes that are actually defined in the Constitution. Article III, Section 3 states clearly, “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 FBI agent obviously didn’t commit treason. But this isn’t just Trump being his normal bombastic self. “Treason” is a term that is bandied about far too loosely these days. And it’s dangerous.

A couple of years ago I appeared in an obscure Spike TV documentary about whistleblowers. The reporters interviewed friends, supporters, and journalists. They each offered their views on the motivation of whistleblowers, what I had revealed about the CIA’s torture program, and the Obama administration’s use of the Espionage Act to curb national security whistleblowing.

The responses were what you might expect – whistleblowing is good, the public has a need to know, etc. But one of the people interviewed, Ronald Kessler, a has-been reporter for the hard right newspaper The Washington Times, said pointedly that the discussion shouldn’t be about the concept of whistleblowing. It should be about my “treason” against the United States. The interviewer pressed him and he repeated, “Kiriakou is a traitor.”

I allowed myself a few days to cool off and, in the end, I just let it go. Nobody saw that documentary anyway, and Kessler was so unhinged that nobody took him seriously.

But that word “treason” has entered the American political vernacular. We see it all the time now, as if it’s somehow normal that traitors are allowed to commit their treason and continue to walk the streets and work in high-ranking positions in the government. In just the past two weeks there have been myriad examples.

Former Maricopa County, Arizona sheriff and current Republican Senate candidate Joe Arpaio, himself a convicted criminal, said after a speech on the floor of the Senate by Arizona Republican senator Jeff Flake that Flake’s criticism of Trump was “a treason-type situation.”

Former White House counselor Steve Bannon told author Michael Wolff for his book “Fire and Fury” that Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Russian attorney during the campaign was “treasonous” and “unpatriotic.” Should Trump Jr. get the death penalty for taking the meeting? You don’t have to like the Trumps to think not.

When whistleblower Chelsea Manning recently announced her candidacy for a US Senate seat in Maryland, the conservative Washington Examiner called her an “entitled traitor” and breathlessly said, “Chelsea Manning, former soldier, nearly convicted of treason, announced over the weekend he [sic] is running for US Senate from the state of Maryland.” Wow. Never mind that Manning was never charged with treason.

So who has committed treason in US history? Not many people. There have been only 15 across the centuries. The first were Philip Vigol and John Mitchell, both sentenced to hang for their roles in the Whiskey Rebellion. They were pardoned by George Washington. Another was the great abolitionist John Brown, who was executed in 1859 for his attempt to organize armed resistance to slavery. The most recent were five individuals who took up arms against the US or who worked as propagandists against the US during World War II. They included Axis Sally and Tokyo Rose.

This perplexing use of the word “treason” is a testament to the vitriol with which Americans now conduct political discussions. But talk of treason has to stop right now. The only logical next step is that somebody in a position of authority, a particularly authoritarian President or Attorney General, for example, takes it to a prosecution. And at that point the Constitution is dead.

John Kiriakou is a former CIA counterterrorism officer and a former senior investigator with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. John became the sixth whistleblower indicted by the Obama administration under the Espionage Act - a law designed to punish spies. He served 23 months in prison as a result of his attempts to oppose the Bush administration's torture program.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

+21 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-01-21 10:24
This is good. We very often hear "treason" charged against one's political opponents. Snowden has been called treasonous by many in the media. Bannon called Trump Jr.'s meeting with a Russian lawyer treason. What non-sense.

But I do think treason is not so rare as John suggests. It is committed by US corporations, the military, and often politicians who aid and assists enemies of the American people. Everyone knows about the support given to Hitler and the Nazis by US corporations. Prescott Bush was actually charged with treason but the charges were dropped. Exxon (then Standard Oil) sold fuel to the Nazis.

Now we have the US governenment supporting enemy regimes in Israel, Saudi Arabia, and many other states. Some might not call these enemies of America but they truly are. They support groups like ISIS which are clearly enemies of the US. The US is at war with ISIS, and yet the Israelis, Saudis, and our own CIA supports them with aid, weapons, money, logistics, and a lot more.

The CIA is a treasonous organization. It has long supported groups and governments that are against the American people. Maybe the worst case is its support for heroin and cocaine production and transportation. These drugs afflict millions of Americans while the CIA profits from them.
+5 # engelbach 2018-01-22 11:04
"Treason" applies only to aiding an enemy.

The term "enemy" implies that the country is at war, although this term has been loosely defined, especially during the Cold War.

None of the countries you named are considered enemies by the US government.

I of course agree with your stance, and up voted you, but not with your definition.
+2 # Robbee 2018-01-22 19:58
Quoting engelbach 2018-01-22 11:04:
"Treason" applies only to aiding an enemy.

The term "enemy" implies that the country is at war, although this term has been loosely defined, especially during the Cold War.

- engelbach puts too fine a point on "enemy" - is hacking/alterin g our voting machines, to elect dickhead, an act of war? cyber-war? as barak pre-election warned putin against? - if putin hackied our voting machines, is that not a re-declaration of cold war? - if not? what is it? casual sex? - will engelbach know cyber-war when engelbach sees it?

stay tuned! - and please don't judge mueller's investigation until, in due course, he reports, thanks! - that's resident dickhead's way, for my invidious comparison, sorry! - unless and until mueller reports, we don’t have all the known, probative evidence, sorry!
-3 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-01-23 09:07
Oh this is really good -- "electing dickhead [is] an act of war?" Which president that we've had in the last 50 years has not been a dickhead? So by electing a dickhead, we are declaring war on ourselves. This is certainly ture. American voters are the stupidest people in the world.
-6 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-01-22 20:13
engel -- "None of the countries you named are considered enemies by the US government."

You raise a really important point. Considered by whom? By the people who have been bought off by Israel and Saudi Arabia? Of course they don't consider them enemies. But I do.

I carefully said "enemies of the American people." I don't mean enemies of the American government. The government actually considers the American people to be its enemies. It spies on them and it is armed to the teeth against any domestic uprising. I would like to change our discourse so that we talk about the interests of the American people and not the interests of the corporate and imperialist functionaries who run the government.

Like you, I would apply your definition to Russia or China. They are not enemies of the US be they are almost universally called that in American media.

The major media is my enemy.
+21 # vilstef 2018-01-21 10:31
If there is treason about, fear monger Trump needs to look into a mirror to see who is most culpable.

He's encouraged Russian hacking, doubled down on obstruction of justice and used the Constitution as toilet paper. He's encouraged acts of terrorism in the US because it would help the GOP in the 2018 midterms. He's used the Office of the President to enrich himself in ways which are very much Dictator actions. Baby Doc Trump is a foe of Democracy who has the collusion of Congress. But since a Republican will admit no error, I guess I'm just bloviating here.
+10 # giraffee23 2018-01-21 11:09
“Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. . .”

Haven't we all seen Trump give Russia license to or allow Russia to interfere in our elections? Even lifting the sanctions against Russia that was voted on by Congress.

They lose treason loosely and inaccurately -- REPEAT: Trump's actions are treasonous _ OPENLY.

Vote and help carry all to the polls. Then I hope Congress steps up and put the racist in JAIL (or more)

Press: Say it like it is
-7 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-01-22 07:46
"Trump give Russia license to or allow Russia to interfere in our elections? "

Exactly where did you see this? It is important to know. You should post it here so Mueller will get it. He's been looking all over for this smoking gun and has not found it yet.
+2 # Robbee 2018-01-22 19:18
Quoting Rodion Raskolnikov:
"Trump (invited) Russia to interfere in our elections"

- there is one word robbee wants dickhead to become very familiar with? - oh yeah! - "treason!"

to russia! with love!
0 # Kiwikid 2018-01-24 17:23
You keep saying that, RR (that Mueller has found nothing). What is apparent, is that Mueller hasn't chosen to share what he does know with you! Yet.
0 # engelbach 2018-01-22 11:06
Once again, heinous as those things are, they don't satisfy the definition of treason.
+9 # Texas Aggie 2018-01-21 11:53
Would laundering money for Russian government personnel constitute "giving aid to our enemies?" One would think so. Does that mean it's treason? How about deliberately throwing the US into a financial crisis for your own enrichment? That might be more controversial since the bankers didn't deliberately help our enemies.
+3 # lfeuille 2018-01-21 18:41
We are not at war with Russia. Russia is not an enemy so it is not treason. Kiriakou's message seem's to have not registered.
+1 # engelbach 2018-01-22 11:07
Russia and the United States are not enemies.
-2 # Robbee 2018-01-22 19:20
Quoting engelbach:
Russia and the United States are not enemies.

- tell that to putin!
-1 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-01-23 09:16
robbee -- why do you say this? Putin has said many, many times that he wants good relations with the US. Here he is last Friday responding to a question about US-Russia relations:

“America is a great power. Today, probably, the only superpower. We accept that,” the Russian president said at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum. “We want to and are ready to work with the United States.”

Putin is not interested in challenging US power or anything. It is the American neo-cons who want a new Cold War. Are you a neo-con? Are you a supporter of Trump and his military junta who want a new Cold War.

I really don't understand how putative progressives can back neo-con policies.

Truth matters. It is the neo-cons who want to promote lies about Russia. I would hope we could all stand up against the neo-cons.
-1 # Kiwikid 2018-01-24 17:25
Seems RR, that you have much more faith in Putin's honesty/integri ty than Meuller's
-4 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-01-22 20:25
Careful, you will get thumbed down for telling this obvious truth.

I guess I just don't understand how or why so many people think Russia is an enemy of the US. They seem to agree 100% with James Mattis, part of Trump's military junta, who said in a speech at Johns Hopkins last week,

"“Great power competition — not terrorism — is now the primary focus of US national security,”

Mattis warned Russia,

“If you challenge us, it will be your longest and worst day.”

Clearly Mattis and the republican junta see Russia as America's enemy, but why would anyone on this putatively progressive or democratic site be such staunch supporters of Mattis and Trump? Got me??? Aren't they the enemies of us all and of civilization itself. Russia and Putin seem to be on the good side, while Trump, Mattis and the global war crowd are on evil side.
+3 # economagic 2018-01-22 22:10
Really? THere is little dispute that we are not "friends," except by one persistent poster of comments in these pages.
-2 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-01-23 09:18
econo -- "THere is little dispute that we are not "friends," "

Where do you find "little dispute"? Is it in the major media? Of course, the major media in the US has always played it role in ginning up support for war. This is the neo-con position. Now we are seeing that there is a powerful neo-con faction on RSN. And powerful supporters of James Mattis and the junta surrounding Trump.
+1 # economagic 2018-01-22 22:15
Surely the banksters are as much our enemies as the Russians, and as I say just below I don't think that the US ans Russia could be considered "friends." Actual declarations of war became obsolete after 1941, and as a response to a "surprise" attack that one was already past its "best by" date
+17 # economagic 2018-01-21 12:02
"This perplexing use of the word “treason” is a testament to the vitriol with which Americans now conduct political discussions."

Perhaps worse, it is a testament to the ignorance not only of the public but of high government officials, e.g., the president, among many others. No wonder they believe the law does not apply to them. They have little concept of the rule of law in general, much less of the Constitution, and even less of the content of specific statutes.

It is the abandonment of the teaching of civics and history in many public school that has the Constitution on life support. To teach the rudiments of democracy to the citizens of a country that pretends to govern its people on democratic principles is both radical and conservative, in the truest sense of both words.
+20 # EternalTruth 2018-01-21 12:05
"...and at that point the constitution is dead."

In the meantime, we'll continue to pretend that it's still alive; that we have the right to peaceably assemble, to due process of law, to habeous corpus, to vote and have those votes counted. Anyone remember privacy? Yeah, that used to be a thing. But it makes me feel better to believe that the constitution is still protecting me.
+25 # lobdillj 2018-01-21 13:48
Well said! Bravo! There are also other examples of corrosive and ridiculous hyperbole that are being published daily. Trump’s lies are stuffed with them. That this flood of lies is being reported as newsworthy and not the ravings of a lunatic is not a good sign.
+6 # jeffsyrop 2018-01-21 16:17
I charge Donald Trump with treason. Millions of Americans will die because of his destruction of our already broken healthcare system, the worst in the developed world. Millions of Americans will lose their homes to pay off medical bills. Hundreds of thousands of men, mostly black men, will rot in prison for selling marijuana, which is far safer and far less harmful to the human body than alcohol. Inaction on global warming will destroy trillions of dollars worth of American property. Treason.

I urge you all to read Daniel Ellsberg's new book, "Doomsday Machine - Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner". I think even millions of sharp progressives don't realize (I didn't) that a doomsday machine actually exists! (Of course I knew that a nuclear war could destroy the world, but Dr. Strangelove's doomsday machine is a whole other story!
+2 # engelbach 2018-01-22 11:12
"Treason" is a legally defined word, which does not fit your personal definition.

By broadening the definition, you're opening the door for whistle blowers to be charged with treason and be subject to its penalties — including the writer of this article, John Kiriakou.

What Trump is guilty of are high crimes and misdemeanors, for which he should be impeached.
-4 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-01-23 09:26
engel -- ""Treason" is a legally defined word, "

I agree with this. It is correct. Also treason is about formal relations between states. It really has no meaning in relations between peoples. States are the problem. Right now the control of the US as a "state" has been taken over by its own military-indust rial-banking-Is raeli complex. They use the state for their own benefits and if a war against Russia seems beneficial to them, then we will have a war against Russia.

And anyone who opposes that war and tries to help Russia will be guilty of treason. In this case, I'd say treason is a great virtue. In the 60s and 70s, I was on the side of the Vietnamese. In the 80s, I was on the side of the Nicaraguans, Salvadorans, and the rest of latin America. In the 90s, I favored the Serbs against the US Nazi proxies. Now I'm on the side of Iraq, Afghanistan, and the rest of the victims of the GWOT. So I guess I've always been treasonous.

Long live treason. It is our only hope we have for a peaceful and rational world.
+5 # krazykwiltkatt 2018-01-21 20:25
If treason is defined as levying war against the government, then all those 'fine people' in Charlottesville marching to protect a statue of Robert E Lee were celebrating treason, but then taking up the Nazi banner, a group the USA fought a declared war against, is also a tip-off. The USA has fallen a long way.
0 # engelbach 2018-01-22 11:15
You can't commit treason by claiming to support an enemy that no longer exists.
0 # Robbee 2018-01-22 19:23
Quoting engelbach:
You can't commit treason by claiming to support an enemy that no longer exists.

- tell that to putin!
+5 # allanmillard 2018-01-22 00:40
Some commenters seem to gloss over the word "enemies" in the definition of treason. There is so much loose talk in the USA, even among your Congress-people , about enemies that I think you need a national dialogue on the subject.

Was Fidel Castro an enemy? Is Putin an enemy? If anyone answers "yes" then I rest my case.
+8 # Jaax88 2018-01-22 01:33
As I have written before trump is a bum,pure and simple (but not the kind seen on the street corners)just an out and out lousy guy. I suspect h has his personal master plan in which he plans to save America from the chaos so he can claim he is the greatest president of Amerika ever AND the greatest leader/dictator the world has ever seen. He is a fat a-hole. Shame on the GOP for enabling him and not speaking out against him for Ameria's soul.
+5 # DongiC 2018-01-22 22:15
The GOP has lost its soul. The drive for money and for power was too all consuming. The Republican Party has become an instrument of evil; its members are truly damned. The question is whether they will take the rest of the country with them. With the dumpster leading, anything could happen. And, probably will.
0 # economagic 2018-01-22 22:17
I have little use for recitations of T-Rumps shortcomings, but this one I kinda like.
+5 # DocMary 2018-01-22 16:32
What about espionage? Trump shared classified info about Israel with his Russian visitors in the Oval Office (as one example).
+1 # nickyus 2018-01-24 09:00
Tokyo Rose (Iva Ikuko Toguri D'Aquino) certainly did not commit treason--her trial was a farce--and she was pardoned in 1977. Just though it worth mentioning...

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