U.S. Code § 2384.Seditious conspiracy
If two or more persons in any State or Territory, or in any place subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, conspire to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take, or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof, they shall each be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both.
Seditious Conspiracy, The Smith Act, and Prosecution for Religious Speech Advocating the Violent Overthrow of Government
From the earliest time of civilization, it has been a basic principle of government that a nation has an inherent right to protect its sovereignty by defending itself. Defending itself translates into safeguarding public security, and is perhaps the most basic function of government. It is what those who established our Constitution had in mind in the stated purpose of the Preamble "to insure domestic Tranquillity."2 The Preamble to the Constitution also provides the mandate for the Government to both "provide for the common defense" and to secure "the blessings of liberty" by "establishing justice."3 Under the Constitution, the function of the federal government in providing for the common defense is to vouchsafe the safety of the people, the security of the nation, and liberty itself. One of the complaints about the Articles of Confederation was that there was a need to secure the safety of the citizens of the several states, a need which was not fulfilled.4
18 U.S. Code § 2381.Treason
Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.
In forming the new nation, founders of the United States addressed the concept of treason in their first formal document, the U.S. Constitution. Article III, Section 3 of the Constitution 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.
“The Congress shall have the power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.”
The Constitution describes the levying of war against the United States as a treasonous act. It also states that giving “aid and comfort” to the nation’s enemies is considered treason. Aid and comfort can take many forms, though they include such acts as providing troops, weapons, transportation, or shelter to an enemy of the nation. This also refers to providing the classified or sensitive information to an enemy of the U.S. In short, engaging in any act that weakens the might of the United States, is considered to be providing aid and comfort.
The Constitution is specific, however, that the Treason clause can only be applied for acts committed during times of war. While certain acts committed during peacetime may be illegal, they would not be considered treason, according to the Constitution’s definition.
The levying of war, which is to advance or further the cause of war or rebellion, does not require one to take up arms and fight. Rather, anyone assisting, or conspiring with, another in such acts has engaged in the illegal act. Such a person may be tried for treason if an armed conflict or rebellion occurs as a result.
Because of the very serious nature of charges of treason, the Constitution requires that a least two people bear witness to the same treasonous act. This requirement minimizes the opportunity of a witch hunt against someone by an individual enemy or adversary. The two-witness requirement is put aside if the perpetrator confesses his treasonous acts in open court.
The act of treason requires the individual to have the intent to commit the traitorous act. This is similar to other serious crimes, such as first-degree murder, in which the perpetrator must have intended to engage in the act. By this definition, someone who inadvertently aids an enemy of the United States during wartime has not committed treason.
According to the Constitution, Congress has the authority to set punishment for treason, though it cannot impose penalties beyond the traitor’s life. In the United States, Congress has no such power, though it may sentence a traitor to the death penalty.
Modern law on treason, found in U.S. Code Title 18, Part I, Chapter 115, Section 2381, states:
“Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.”