The title of this post says it all, the United States has charged their a citizen with the first case of treason since the end of World War II. Originally a California native, Adam Gadahn converted to Islam and, at 28, is believed to be in Pakistan helping al Qaeda make propaganda videos. Treason is the highest crime the government can charge a citizen with under the Constitution. The crime carries a maximum sentence of death.

Realistically, the timing of this announcement is suspect. The FBI has pursued Mr. Gadahn since 2004. It is a clear possibility that this action is politically motivated, to demonstrate the strength of hardline republican anti-terrorism policy. However, to be fair, this policy reminder has been justified by acts of Congress supported by both sides of the isle. I worry about whether this really criminalizes speech that may otherwise be protected by the First Amendment. Some of the statements dont’ run afoul of this principle. For example, statements about imminent attacks constitutes a true threat, one kind of statement not protected by the First Amendment. Conversely, comments expressing an opinion contrary to the American government may qualify for Constitutional protection. The real legal question is how far the fedreal government will push the application of crimes of treason to anti-American sentiment.

By: R. Andrew Smith

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