Sunday, October 04, 2009

Not Treason, But....

According to Article III, Section 3 of the United States Constitution, treason "shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort." So they are not traitors.

Not Republican Senators Jim DeMint of South Carolina or Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma (what's with Jims, anyway?) nor Republican U.S. Representatives Eric Cantor (Minority Leader) of Virginia or Mark Kirk of Illinois. Nonetheless, Eric Kleefeld of Talking Points Memo helpfully describes their shenanigans:

• Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) is visiting Honduras in order to support the recent military coup against a leftist president, which has been opposed by the Obama administration and all the surrounding countries in the region. (Late Update: DeMint's office says he is not taking sides during his visit to the current Honduran leadership, denying the New York Times reports that this was his intention.)

• Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) will be going to the upcoming climate change conference in Copenhagen, bringing a "Truth Squad" to tell foreign officials there that the American government will not take any action: "Now, I want to make sure that those attending the Copenhagen conference know what is really happening in the United States Senate."

• House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) traveled to Israel, where he spoke out against President Obama's opposition to expanded settlements. He also defended Israel on the eviction of two Arab families from a house in east Jerusalem, which had been criticized by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

• Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL) boasted in June that he told Chinese officials not to trust America's budget numbers. "One of the messages I had -- because we need to build trust and confidence in our number one creditor," said Kirk, "is that the budget numbers that the US government had put forward should not be believed." Since then, he has declared his candidacy for U.S. Senate.

No, they have not committed treason. But they apparently have violated the Logan Act, which codified at 18 U.S.C. [sections] 953, states:

Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.

This section shall not abridge the right of a citizen to apply,
himself or his agent, to any foreign government or the agents thereof for redress of any injury which he may have sustained from such government or any of its agents or subjects.

There has been only one instance of an indictment for violation of the Logan Act, no one ever was prosecuted. Further, the language is overbroad and therefore is generally considered unconstitutional.

However, it remains on the books. Democrats, if they had a backbone, would call for the prosecution of one or more Repubs (my favorite would be Kirk, whose act was most reprehensible). When the GOP rises as one to protest, Democratic members of Congress should move to repeal the Act. Of course, none of these thoroughly irresponsible Republicans would be prosecuted; if a Democratic Administration refuses seriously to consider investigating former Vice-President Dick Cheney or lawyers or policymakers involved in torture, no member of the GOP ever would be prosecuted for going abroad and undermining his country.

But Democrats? If the Logan Act remains on the books, in some future Repub administration, there will be a move to prosecute the likes of a Jimmy Carter, Jessie Jackson, or Al Sharpton (by then, probably not any of them). And although the effort probably will fail legally, it will prove a bonanza politically.

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