What is Treason?

Recently, the Air Force terminated the deputy commander of its Air Combat Command for unlawfully interfering with his subordinates’ rights to communicate with Congress. The gist of this issue centers on Major General James Post’s use of the word “treason” to describe airmen’s communications that were inconsistent or in conflict with official Air Force position related to the A-10 attack aircraft. By using such verbiage in combination with his billet and rank, he was determined to have exercised undue influence in pressuring subordinates to censor themselves.

This is certainly not the first such incidence where one person or group has used accusations or suggestions of treason to silence genuine discussion and/or contrary views. One can easily locate proponents of such an approach in virtually any social media site, political discussion board, online comments section, or in personal discussions between colleagues. Unfortunately, the use of “treason” as an argumentative counterpoint is fairly pervasive in my observations.

But here is the nagging reality: treason is not a subjectively determinable offense in the United States. It does not mean whatever one thinks it means at the time. It is certainly not treasonous to refuse to tow the party the line, whatever party or line is for that day. Most are unaware of this fact, but the Constitution purposefully defines an act of treason – indeed, it happens to be the sole crime identified and defined in our Constitution. So, what exactly is it?

Article III, Section 3 explains: “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort” (emphasis added).

Disagreeing with the Air Force’s position on retiring the A-10 platform, criticizing the president or his policies, expressing malcontent with taxation, and the like clearly fail to meet this standard identified and ratified as part of the Supreme Law of the Land.

If one wishes to throw the word “treason” around, or label someone a “traitor,” it would certainly be beneficial for them and us to understand what the word actually means beforehand. Words have meaning, and we should all strive to be informed and not just opinionated.



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