If you love the U.S. but are dissatisfied with government actions or policies, you may wonder if any actions you take regarding these could be considered treasonous. Here are five things you should know before proceeding. For specific advice on your activities and future plans, you would do well to consult a criminal law attorney to protect yourself and your interests.
1. Treason is any act that could be considered harmful to U.S. interests.
Treason is any action that involves acting against the security and safety interests of the U.S. government and the public it serves.
2. Charges involving treasonous acts are considered serious felonies.
It's likely that any charges you would receive for a treasonous act would not be strictly called treason. The burden of proof for it is higher than for other crimes. In fact, actual treason charges have been brought less than thirty times in the U.S.
It takes a confession in open court, two witnesses, or other solid evidence to be convicted of treason. The punishments for treason are death, life in prison, and/or forfeiture of assets received for the crime.
3. Exercising freedom of speech can intersect with laws about treasonous acts.
It is not illegal to speak negatively about the U.S. government. You can write an article, protest, or make a public speech about things you disagree with, about the history of the U.S., or changes you think ought to be made.
However, if your speech is broadcasted as propaganda or is put in printed form to serve the interests of a U.S. enemy, it can be considered treasonous. This is especially so if you conspire with an enemy to encourage other citizens to break the law; for example, trying to demoralize soldiers and encourage them to defect to the other side.
4. Sharing or stealing classified information to public entities or other countries is considered a treasonous act.
Shortly after Edward Snowden leaked confidential information about NSA spying to the press and left the country, he was charged with three felonies related to his activities. The charges involve relaying classified information to an outside source, revealing communications intelligence, and stealing government property.
Other unlawful acts related to this type of crime are money laundering, helping a country develop technology for possible use in military action against the U.S., or selling unauthorized technical information that could be used to develop weapons.
5. You can break the law by sending donations to someone who is defined as a national security threat/criminal.
The charge of treason gets bandied about quite a bit in the media, but if the government is pursuing charges against someone for treasonous activities, you would put yourself at risk if you tried to give them assistance of any kind.
For example, no matter what your opinion is on Edward Snowden (whether you think he is guilty of treason or is a whistle-blower), sending money or other aid to him is prohibited by a U.S. executive order.
So, to recap: your criticism of the government could generally be considered protected under free speech. However, if you make active efforts to undermine the military, engage in activities that could harm fellow citizens, share confidential information to entities that aren't entitled to it, further the interests of another nation over your own country, or send tangible support to a person charged with these crimes, you would be at risk for serious criminal charges.
For professional legal services, contact a lawyer such as Thomas A Corletta.