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Tuesday, July 9, 2013

How Founding Fathers Defined ‘Traitors’ And ‘Treason’

This photo provided by The Guardian Newspaper in London shows Edward Snowden, who worked as a contract employee at the National Security Agency, on Sunday, June 9, 2013, in Hong Kong. (The Guardian/AP)

This photo provided by The Guardian Newspaper in London shows Edward Snowden, who worked as a contract employee at the National Security Agency, on Sunday, June 9, 2013, in Hong Kong. (The Guardian/AP)

Members of the press and politicians from opposite sides of the aisle have publicly called Edward Snowden a traitor. Some have even suggested that his actions amount to treason.

But is there a more complicated way to view Snowden and his actions, if you couch them in the history of the founding principles of our republic?

Treason is the only crime defined in the Constitution, and it has a very specific and narrow meaning. Treason consists of levying war or aiding enemies who are levying war, against the United States.

So how have we come to use the words traitor and treason in ways the framers of the Constitution never even intended?

Guest:

  • Jason Opal, professor of American history at McGill University.

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