tv Jeremy Duda Discusses If This Be Treason CSPAN January 16, 2017 4:30pm-5:16pm EST
atlanta in 1915, it was the, quote-unquote, modern klan that imitated the film rather than the other way around. so the first sheeted night riders came out and watched the film, and that's when the masks and the red crosses and all of that, that comes out of d.w. griffith's imagination. but that rebirth of the ku klux klan was still three years in the future in 1912. and so it is simply impossible that the campaign of terrorism was the work of white-sheeted klansmen. who, then, were those, quote, persons responsible for the purge? i found another letter, another eureka moment when suddenly there's something significant. ruth major can was a 14-year-old girl in 1912, and she had been a classmate of may crowe's, and after recalling how all hell had
broke loose on the night of the future, jordan wrote: it weren't the klan done this, it was just ordinary people of the county. >> you can watch this and other programs online at booktv.org. >> excited to be here tonight to be able to talk with you about my new book, my first book, "if this be treason," hopefully just the first of many. as most of you know, my name is jeremy duda, and i know many of you know me as a political reporter for the arizona times, i've been delving into the arizona political scene. the politics, especially arizona politics is, of course, a passion of mine, but i think those of you who know we personally -- me personally know probably my greatest passion is history. if you've been to my house, you've seen wall after wall of double-stacked history books. i got the opportunity last year,
and the result is "if this be treason." before i start, i want to extend a special thanks to changing hands bookstore, a fantastic local bookstore that has -- [applause] giving me this opportunity to come and talk with you tonight. also a special thanks to c-span which is here recording this for booktv, which is good because it's also been to dream of mine to be on booktv. [applause] so if you though someone who wanted to come or you just find me so captivating that you feel compelled to watch this again, it will be on booktv hopefully very soon. [laughter] so the original title of this book was almost treason, and i think that goes a long way towards kind of explaining the concept behind the book. another thing i think that helps probably explain it a little is our recently ended presidential election. i don't know if you noticed, but it was a very contentious affair -- [laughter] certainly the most contentious presidential election of my
lifetime, and treason was a word that probably on a daily basis if you were on social media you heard being thrown around, applied to both major party candidates, so is their supporters -- to their supporters, and i wouldn't blame you if you didn't notice, it was a low-key affair that'll mostly be remembered for its grace and civility. [laughter] but some of those accusations were flying around just a bit. but when people say treason, what do they really mean? you know, treason is defined in the u.s. constitution as levying war against the united states or providing aid or comfort to its enemies. it's actually the only crime defined in the u.s. constitution, and the framers had a very specific reason for doing that. under british rule, which they were very familiar with, treason was applied to a great many to offenses that were simply, you know, simply used against people who were opposing the government speaking out, to posing the king. -- opposing the king. in one of the cases i'll be discussing tonight from my book, there was a supreme court
justice who noted that under british rule treason was not only raising a hand against the king, but simply thinking murderous thoughts about the king. and we saw an example of that at the constitutional convention. one of the delegates, when they were debating this provision, recalled the case of an englishman who had wished death upon a man, an unknown man who had killed his favorite buck. unfortunately for him, that man turned out to be the king, and for wishing death upon the king -- even though he had no way of knowing who it was -- he was convicted of treason. as i said, the framers were very familiar with the way that the treason laws could be abused, and they wanted to make sure that couldn't -- they wanted to try and prevent that from happening in their new country, so they put the definition in the constitution to that congress would not be able to change it at its whim. now that, of course, has not people from using the word treason over and over and over again, but most of the time you hear it such as, you know, certain presidential elections or pretty much any election, any
political blog anywhere, most of the times you hear that, what people really mean by that is not that they're levying war against the united states. they mean that they feel like someone is being disloyal to the u.s., they're betraying the country, they're being seditious in some way. it's kind of a i know it when i see it definition of treason. and there was one incident in particular that actually, of that that actually inspired this book, and i'd love to be able to take credit for it, but my publishers came up with the idea and let me run wild with the rest of the book. you may remember in 2015, just last year, president obama was trying to negotiate a deal with iran to end the country's nuclear program. republicans were not happy about how that deal was going, and 47 republican senators, led by tom cotton of arkansas, sent a letter to the leaders of iran warning him, warning them that any deal they reached with obama would need senate ratification, and if they didn't get that,
then it could just be scrapped by the next president. if you've been following the news lately, it seems like a pretty likely outcome at this point. now democrats, senate democrats accused senator cotton of violating an archaic 1789 law called the logan act. and some even went so far as to accuse him of treason. now, the logan act may sound a little bit familiar from our recent presidential election. just a few months ago, which i know seems like an eternity at this point, you know, donald trump made a comment imploring the russians to release hillary clinton's missing e-mails, and democrats said, you know, that's a violation of the hogan act, again like with senator cotton, some said, hey, that's treason. but the incident with senator cotton, i think, is a really good launching point for a discussion of this book not only because that incident was the inspiration behind the book, but because the logan act -- the law he was accused of breaking -- is the focus of my first chapter.
i've got 12 chant -- chapters plus an epilogue, and as much as i'd love to get into all of them, that would keep you here until midnight. so i'm going to focus on a small handful, and i'm going to start with the logan act. in 1798 the united states and france were on the brink of war. it was a time known as the cause i-war. france was at war with a bunch of its neighbors in europe, and it was trying to stop neutral shipping from sending goods to its enemies. that, unfortunately, included us. they were attacking our shipping, capturing our sailors, and war seemed pretty imminent at that point especially because congress and the white house under president john adams were controlled by the federalist party which was pretty hostile to france. the democratic republican party led by thomas jefferson, very pro-french and anti-war, but they were in the minority and out of power, didn't have a lot, you know, not a lot they could do about it. so in the midst of all this, there was one democratic republican who thought maybe he
could do something about this. he wasn't a congressman or anything like that, he was a philadelphia doctor named george logan. you know, he was a democratic republican, a friend of thomas jefferson personally. he was a quaker, a pacifist, very pro-french. and he thought if he could just get the france and somehow meet with france's leaders, he just might be able to kind of talk them back from the edge and keep his country out of war. so george logan, you know, he was a pretty prominent person, you know, in his day, but certainly no one of the stature that you would imagine would be needed to go and actually negotiate with a foreign country's leaders. it'd be kind of like one of you taking out a second mortgage to, you know, go to iran and try to negotiate a better nuclear deal. this is basically what he did. he spent his own money, actually sold several parcels of land to finance this trip, and he went to france, and he actually was
able to meet with france's leaders. he got an audience with the leader of the french directory. france had seen the wisdom of walking things back too. they realized another war was not exactly what they needed at the time, so it's kind of impossible to determine what george logan's impact was. but the french certainly thought there was a lot of impact for his attempt to come there and make peace. he was hailed as a hero, he was a guest of honor at state dinners, he became a celebrity in paris. now, you would think that he would probably receive similar treatment back in his home country for going out on his own initiative and trying to make peace. that was most emphatically not the case. the federalists were outraged. they viewed this as inexcusable interference in america's foreign policy, and by someone with what they viewed as very dubious pro-french sympathies as well. you know, they basically viewed, or many of them anyway, viewed the democratic republicans as kind of a fifth column seeking
to import the atheistic mob rule of the french revolution to america. so they wanted to do manager to make sure that -- something to make sure that someone like george logan could never do this again, and what that ended up being was the logan act, making it a crime for a private citizen without authorization from the government to correspond directly or even indirectly with a foreign power over any dispute or controversy involving the united states. now, this has turned out to be pretty much one of the most worthless laws ever passed by congress, and i know that's a very high bar -- [laughter] but they might have set it back in 1799 when they passed this. you know, something like 225 years since it was passed, not a single person has actually been convicted of violating this law, and only once has someone actually even been with charged with it. that is a distinction that belongs to a kentucky farmer named francis flournoy. back in 1803, he felt -- and
stop me if you've heard this anytime lately, he felt like the political elites on the eastern seaboard were out of touch with the rest of america and not paying attention to americans' needs. in the absence of any new york real estate moguls to vote for, he decided he was going to write an article under a pseudonym in a local newspaper calling for kentucky and other western states to secede from the union and form a union with the french territory to their west. this was shortly before the louisiana purchase. france still controlled all that land. the local u.s. attorney who, perhaps a bit overzealous, decided this was indirect correspondence with a foreign country, indicted him under the logan act. now, there isn't a lot in the historic to call record about this case was it was, obviously -- because it was, obviously, very flimsy from the start, fell apart quickly and never went to trial. was dropped before ever going to trial. so while the logan act carries a edgety of $5,000 and up to three years this prison, the worst
penalty francis flournoy faced was to become a historical footnote for authors like me. [laughter] the only thing that the logan act has ever been good for is accusing your political enemies of violating that. we saw that in the past couple years with tom cotton and donald trump facing accusations from the democrats. a few years earlier, republicans made a similar action against nancy pelosi for a trip she took to syria. jesse jackson for trying to get back american hostages, for jim wright, to helped negotiate an end to the nicaraguan civil war. the the nixon administration thought about filing charges against jane fonda for her trip to vietnam. process perot even when he was trying to get missing servicemen back after the vietnam war ended, and, obviously, nothing has ever come from any of this. now, as we see from george logan -- who had nothing but the best of intentions -- having
good intentions is absolutely no protection from being accused of treason which is very much an accusation he faced from the federalists in congress. they denounced him on the senate floor, basically, as a traitor. he's actually not the only person who found his way into my book for trying to make peace. the other was a man named nicholas tryst. now, tryst did not betray his country or government so much as he betrayed his president which, of course, under the british was kind of one and the same, and there actually is no question he betrayed his president. he was quite open about this. but whether he was doing this in the best interest of his country is a completely other matter. in 1847 we were in the middle of a war with mexico, and at that point we had marched very far south into the country, conquered a lot of territory, and president james k. polk decided it was time to make peace on extremely generous terms for the united states, of course. so he and secretary of state james buchanan sent tryst to mexico as a peace envoy.
they wanted him to negotiate a peace deal, they gave him a set of terms. there was the minimum that polk was willing to accept which was a border at the rio grande river in texas and, basically, all the land that we're standing on here today, the land we ultimately got, and then there was a few otherring concessions he wanted to get but, you know, weren't particularly important and, you know, how much he was able to pay the mexican government for this land was dependent on how much he was able to get. now, tryst seemed like a very safe choice to send to mexico. he was a loyal southern democrat, a very loyal supporter to buchanan, he was the second in command at the state department, and he was a very strong supporter of the war which was very controversial. he turned out to not be quite as safe as president polk had thought. once tryst got to mexico, he was kind of appalled by what he saw. he basically viewed it as an unabashed war of conquest and an abuse of power by the united states, various shame to what his country was doing to mexico.
and so he was having some serious misgivings about this war that he'd supported, and he was supposed to negotiate an end to. now, at this time, you know, mexico was losing the war badly, but they did not want to sit down at the negotiating table. they were, you know, proud, they wanted to fight, they wanted to keep fighting even though they were losing. so finally they got to a point where tryst was getting kind of desperate to, you know, to get them to the negotiating table. there was a temporary ceasefire, and genuinefield scott was on the out-- general winfield scott was on the outskirts of mexico city ready to invade, and tryst started offering a little bit more than president polk would have been comfortable with. he offered them the harbor of san diego which was very important to president polk, that he obtain that. he offered a neutral zone between the two disputed borders, and nothing ever came of this. but word eventually got back to washington, and president polk and secretary buchanan heard about this, and they went through the roof.
they very quickly concluded that sending tryst to mexico was a huge mistake and immediately recalled him back to the united states. buchanan sent him a letter, said return to washington immediately. now, by the time this happened, the prospects for peace had actually improved a little bit. a pro-peace faction had taken over mexico's congress, and they were ready to sit down and hash out a deal. tryst didn't want to lose this golden opportunity. he was also very concerned about what was going to happen to mexico if he left. at the time a lot of folks in washington had some very grand designs about what more they might be able to take. tryst wanted to stop this from happening. so he made a very bold decision. he decided he was going to disobey his president. he was going to ignore this order to return to washington basically illegally negotiate a treaty with mexico and bring an end to what he viewed as a very horrible war. now, tryst knew that he couldn't negotiate anything that would
resemble a fair or just treaty, but he could negotiate what would essentially be the least bad treaty with mexico and stop any more of their land from being taken, stop the country from being further dismembered, he knew it would still have to be accepted by polk and by the senate which had to ratify it, but he could try to mitigate the damage quite a bit. the result of this was the treaty of guadalupe pay hidalgo which was eventually accepted by the president, ratified by the senate and gave us this land where we sit now for this book reading. polk was furious, but the treaty was good. it was, basically, too good a deal the pass up. you know, he couldn't pass up -- it gave him everything he wanted, basically, so despite how angry he was with his envoy, tryst, he accepted it, he sent it to the senate, and it was ratified. now, at the time, as i mentioned, there were a lot of people in washington who wanted to go a lot further. some of polk's allies in
congress and even some of the members of his cabinet started thinking, hey, we could get a lot more out of this war which basically was a war of conquest. some people wanted to extend our border several hundred miles further south, that wall our new president wants to build would be going up a lot further away from us than it will be now. some people wanted to annex the entire country, and there's really no way of saying any of these things would have happened. there were a lot of other circumstances in play. you know, the whig party, which was very hostile to the war effort, had just taken over the house of representatives, a group that included a young one-term congressman you might have heard of named abraham lincoln, and they were pretty keen on defunding the war effort and halting the war altogether. and even some of polk's allies in the democratic party, they weren't keen on taking more land mostly out of sheer racism. they didn't want to bring that many new non-white citizens into the united states. so it's hard to say which faction would have ultimately
prevailed if they'd had to fight this out, but what we can say for sure is that because of nicholas tryst and his decision to just disobey his president, we never actually had to go down that road and have that debate. now, several of the chapters in my book, you might notice, follow a common theme, and that theme is the suppression of free speech and first amendment liberties. obviously, as a journalist this is a very personal subject to me. and there's a lot of chapters that involve journalists not actually because i am one, but because in a lot of these debates where people are accused of treason, they kind of end up in the middle of them for various reasons and even sometimes facing suppression from the government. but as, you know, usually when we see this, it is almost always done in the name of national security. we see that from the earliest days of our country to the modern day. first time we saw that was in 1798 with the alien and sedition act which was basically passed for one reason and one reason only which was to crack down on
the democratic republican press that was hounding the federalists. i have a chapter on that. we saw this again in the civil war when lincoln really cracked down on dissent, you know, in the states. and i explore that through the story of clement -- [inaudible] a former ohio congressman who was a leader of the anti-war copperhead faction of the democrats. lincoln actually exiled him to the confederacy for speaking out against him. [laughter] kind of, i think a lot of folks at the time viewed that very much as poetic justice. [laughter] we saw it again in world war ii with the espionage act and the sedition act, and i write about how that was used against victor berger who was the first socialist ever elected to congress and was a major newspaper publisher in milwaukee. but, of course, no discussion of the suppression of free speech and first amendment rights and civil liberties in general is complete without an examination of the mccarthy era, the witch hunts of joseph mccarthy. and when i started writing this book or started researching it,
perhaps, i knew i would have to include something from that chapter. it just wouldn't be complete without it. and be there was a lot to choose from. there were so many incidents that are really ingrained in our national consciousness. think of blacklists, loyalty oaths, the house un-american activities committee, the hollywood ten scandal, mccarthy's witch hunts. but what i chose to focus on was something that has for some reason gone almost completely unremembered by history, and it's kind of shocking when you see how significant that is. that incident was the smith acts trial which was a trial of 11 top ranking members of the communist party usa who were basically convicted simply for being members of the communest party. communist party. the smith act was a law that was passed in 1940 that makes it illegal to advocate for the violent overthrow of the u.s. government. and it was passed at the time, of course, to target communists, but mostly it was just used
against nazis during world war ii. now, once the cold war started after world war ii, things changed a lot. with by the late 1940s, harry truman was under tremendous pressure from the republicans who accused him of being soft on communism and to kind of rebut those charge, he decided he wanted to make an example of some communists. the only question was which law he was going to the use, and at the urging of j. edgar hoover and the fbi, they settled on the smith act. now, truman could not have found a less sympathetic group of defendants at the time. i mean, you hear so much from that era where people who were erroneously believed to have, you know, communist sympathies or what not were unfairly targeted. these 11, they were just out and out communists, very proud and public leaders of the communist party, you know, they pretty much fit the stereotype that the average american had of a communist to a tee. one of the defendants was eugene dennis who was the lead defendant and the leader of the communist party usa, and, you
know, he'd been charged with sedition multiple times, he'd gone into hiding, he had changed his name, he'd actually lived in the soviet union twice and traveled the world at the soviets' behest spreading communism in foreign countries. he and his wife actually had to leave their son in the country because the russian government says he only speaks russian, and he's going to seem too suspicious if you take him back to america. so like i said, not an extremely sympathetic group of folks at the time, and perhaps that's why this incident's been forgotten. now, the justice department had no actual evidence of these people plotting to overthrow the american government by violent force. but their entire case rested on the premise that the communist party advocated the violet overthrow of the government and that by their membership in the communist party, they were inherently conspiring to yo throw the government. to overthrow the government. due to a number of circumstances
including overt hostility from the judge and a very bizarre legal strategy that focused mostly on agitation, propaganda and disruption in the courtroom, these 31 men were -- 11 men were convicted of violating the smith act. they appealed this all the way to the supreme court. the court of appeals upheld it, they went to the supreme court, and it was not a close call for them. only two people dissented. they decided that even if these 11 hadn't really been plotting at the time to, you know, immediately overthrow the government, they were going to get around to it when they could. [laughter] you know? whatever the most, the earliest convenient time for them to do so, that's when they were going to spring into action, and considering everything going on in the world at the time, this great geopolitical struggle between the united states and soviet union, these 11 men constituted a clear and present danger to america. as i mentioned, there were only two justices who dissented. one basically acknowledged that there was kind of no way for a
fair trial considering how inflamed people's passions were over communism and the soviet union at the time, but hoped that, as he put it, quote: in calmer times the supreme court would come back and restore the civil liberties it was trampling on. those calmer times didn't come for a while. it was, actually, about six years. and justice black's worst fears in those six years very much came true. once the supreme court upheld this conviction, the department of justice basically interpreted this as a starter's pistol to begin an all-out assault against the communist party usa, and it wasn't until 1957 that supreme court kind of surveyed the land scape and realized they might have made a mistake and kind of saw the horrors that they unleashed, and they overturned, they struck down as unconstitutional this conspiracy provision of the smith act at the time. in those to intervening six
years, 126 members of communist party organizations across the country -- not including eugene dennis and the original defendants -- had been charged with violating the conspiracy provision of the smith act. 93 of them were convicted. even after 1957 some of them stayed in prison for a while, even through the early '60s. i think the last defendant was in jail until 1962 when john f. kennedy commuted his sentence. but interesting side note, it was struck down basically in 1957, but the smith act is still actually on the books today. it hasn't been enforced in about 60 years, but just keep that in mind if any of you are planning to violently overthrow the american government. [laughter] not talking to anyone in particular. [laughter] i think that just about wraps up my presentation, but again, i want to thank you all for coming. if you haven't gotten a copy of my book yet, you can buy one here, and at the same time you can support, like i said, a
fantastic local bookstore. if you want to learn more about my book, please go to my web site, jeremydudabooks.com, and afterwards i'm going to be signing autographs, so if you want to get with your books signed, i'll be here signing those. before we get to that, i'd love to open the floor up to q&a, so if any of you have questions about book in general or any of the cases i've discussed or any of the fascinating ones i didn't have a chance to get to, please ask away. >> your book, do you cover the john adams era when he was putting people in jail, journalists specifically? he jailed benjamin franklin's grandson that made him look bad. >> that is actually the focus of my second chapter, and it focuses especially on franklin's grandson and his paper, the philadelphia aurora. and the adams administration used the sedition act very
vigorously against everyone at the paper. he was actually dead by the time it went into effect and thankfully so. yellow fever got him before the adams administration did, but the folks who came after him and ran his paper after him, some of them suffered some pretty severe consequences. >> one of the things in addition to some of the more current events you mentioned, i don't know if it was too soon for the book, but what do you think about the edward snowden situation and how that lines up with system of these historical examples? >> well, snowden, i think, is probably the perfect embodiment in the modern day of the concept behind in this book. he's the focus of the epilogue. not a full chapter. his saga is still ongoing, of course, and i'm sure many more books will be written about it. but, yeah, that's, you know, a perfect example. you hear the word treason, you know, used quite often to describe snowden. a lot of other people call him a hire row. he reject -- hero.
he rejects both ladies and gentlemens -- both labels but while he tries to sort that out, he is, of course, still live anything moscow. >> [inaudible] maybe awareness of treason has changed over the past 200-plus years. >> well, i think if we actually, you know, maybe we would use the term a little bit less frequently if we actually saw real cases of this. we have not actually, we've seen, i think, one case of treason in about the past 60 years. we actually had one in 2006. it was a guy who was doing propaganda videos for al-qaeda, i think. but that was the first one since, i believe, 1952. so it's-a very foreign concept, i think, to americans at this time. and by now it's mostly just something to write on blogs or say on cable news to denounce your enemies. like i said, kind of an i know it when i see it standard rather than the standard we see set out in the constitution. >> what happened to tryst after
the guadalupe hidalgo treaty was passed and he went back home? were there any ramifications? >> nothing good happened to him. [laughter] now, they did not actually -- unlike george logan, no one passed any laws to stop any future nicholas trysts, but his job was not waiting for him when he came back, and there was no government employment coming for him which was bad for him because he'd been employed with by the state department for about 20 years at this point. for many years it was actually very tough for he and his wife, he and his family to make ends meet. in 1861 when lincoln took office, winfield scott, with whom he'd forged an alliance while in mexico, actually petitioned abraham lincoln to give him a job, but lincoln was not so keen on the idea, so rode out the war kind of anonymously, and it wasn't until the late 1860s when congress even repaid him for the expens he'd
incurred -- expenses he'd incurred when he was in mexico. and finally, i think it was in 1871, somewhere around then, that someone convinced ulysses grant's administration to the finally throw the guy a bone and give the guy a job, and he spent the last four years of his life as the postmaster for alexandria, virginia. [laughter] no statues or anything, you know? you'd think there'd be a come, but -- [laughter] >> how did you decide who to include in this book? because i'm sure there was a plethora of choices. >> there were, there were. basically, part of it is like, i mentioned the free speech and civil liberties theme through a lot of those chapters, so i knew each of those every rahs -- eras, i wanted to find one good example from each. as i mentioned the philadelphia aurora for that era, victor berger, the socialist
congressman for the era of the espionage act during world war i and then the smith act trial. others, i mean, the logan act was kind of a given since that whole tom cotton incident was the inspiration behind the book. for the rest of them, had to kind of dig deep into my, fortunately, large background of historical knowledge. it took me a while. i had a list, i kept crossing things off and adding new things and too manically settled on what i felt -- and finally settled on what i felt were fascinating incidents. >> was there any path to use the logan act against nixon -- >> not kissinger, but there was briefly some talk of using it against nixon. very brief. and a little background, there's another chapter in my book that's about richard nixon in 1968. he was very worried that lyndon johnson was going to start briggening about -- bringing about peace in vietnam which
would help his democratic opponent win the election. humphrey was gaining on him. nixon was conspiring to talk with the south vietnamese, johnson did use at one point the word treason, and he was angrily talking to a senator on the phone who was an ally of nixon. interesting side note, if you listen to johnson's white house tapes, you learn that he snorts a lot when he talks. [laughter] that's something that'll always stand out to me from that research. [laughter] but they did, lbj did consider using the logan act, but they did not fully have the evidence they needed to go public with this. and at that point he decided that it would be very bad for the country if a new president was coming in with this hanging over his head and kept it to himself. perhaps they would have known a little bit better what they were getting into had that come out, but they learned eventually.
>> joseph mccarthy, that era, and the name roy cohn comes to mind. did you write about him? because he, it turns out, was a bigtime mentor to our president-elect. >> i did not. i believe he got mentioned only in passing, just kind of in the smith act chapter talking about a little about the mccarthy era and the, you know, have you no sense of decency, sir, the famous quote. but he really only gets mentioned in passing just as kind of a part of that era. >> did you ever look into the assertion that bill casey went to france and met with iranian agents in 1980 to stall the release of the hostages until after the election? >> i didn't want. that was one of the -- i didn't. that was one of the ones that was under consideration but didn't make the list, but that is, of course, a very fascinating potential logan act situation in and of itself. when, you know, and i think part
of the reason is it's still a bit murky. there's a lot of evidence kind of pointing to that, there's still a lot of people who believe that didn't happen. but william casey, for those of you who don't know, who later became the cia director under ronald reagan, he was reagan's campaign manager, i believe. and, of course, this was all going on during the iran hostage crisis that was sinking jimmy carter like a stone. he'd been trying to negotiate the hostages' release before the end of office, that was all he wanted in the world. william casey might have played a role in that not happening. basically telling the iranians to hold off on doing anything because that would have made carter look great just before this big election. and quips dentally -- coincidentally or not, the iranians chose to release those hostages within about a half hour of reagan's inauguration. they didn't want to give jimmy carter the satisfaction. whether that was because of
casey's interference or their own spite towards carter is somewhat unresolved, but there certainly have been decades of accusations that william casey did that. >> there's a passage in the constitution that define cans treason, the following chapter's got some weird language about punishments which i read right before i came here tonight, didn't look it up about corruption of the blood being one of the threats against people committing treason or a limit on the punishment? >> i don't know that there is any limit on punishment. i mean, execution is, you know, kind of the ultimate punishment, and a lot of people actually have been executed, you know, for treason. doesn't have to be, you know, the death penalty, but that, you know, there really is no limit on how far the government can go to punish you if you are convicted of treason. it's a high bar to set.
you either have to anytime it in open court, or you have to have two separate witnesses to treasonous acts, and that's why i think this is actually so rare. we've only seen, i think, somewhere around 30 cases where someone has even been charged with treason in this country. >> how many people have been executed for treason? total? >> i'm not sure. i think it, like i said, about 30 people have been charged just in total in, you know, 225 plus years of this country's history. i think -- don't quote me on this, but i think it's probably around 18 or so have been convicted. a love lot of them have been -- a lot of them have been executed. some of them have spent their life in prison. the last person to be convicted of treason, i think, was in 1952 who was an american of jalapeno tease descent who'd been in japan at the time of pearl harbor and work worked for a jae company that used american
p.o.w.s as slave labor, so he was convicted for mistreating american prisons. he was sentenced to death, but president eisenhower commuted his death to a sentence of life in prison. >> when american citizens typically are jailed for spying, like the rosenbergs, executed or pollard, they're not generally charged with treason, right? what law are they actually charged under? >> very often you see in the case of the rosenbergs especially, that was the espionage -- i think it was the espionage act. they were charged with espionage. edward snowden, he currently is charged under the espionage act. not sure about a lot of the exact other statutes, but there's so many other laws governing, you know, taking up arms against your country or stealing secrets, you know, things like that, passing on, you know, national security secrets to the enemy. there's a whole range of other laws that cover a lot of these other things.
>> what about daniel ellsberg? >> i do get into him in the book. not a full chapter, but i have a chapter, it's mostly about the chicago tribune. three days before the attack on pearl harbor, the paper was very isolationists and very opposed to what they saw as roosevelt trying to push the united states into war. they got ahold of his very top secret war plans for germany, splashed them across the front page, and there was a lot of talk at least for a short time of, you know, pressing charge against the paper and against its publisher. that all kind of fell by the wayside a few days later. the roosevelt administration had bigger things to deal with. but the last part of that chapter, probably the last third or so, covers the pentagon incident as well, and it's a broader theme for the chapter of press leaks. >> just one last question. that one soldier that was, walked off of his post in
afghanistan, they held him for five years, a lot of people wanted him charged with treason for aiding and abetting the enemy because they're claiming he went over there to help them. but do you have any stories or did you ever hear any stories of, in wartime where soldiers were summarily executed without trial for suspicion of treasonous acts or aiding and abetting the enemy? >> that's something i didn't really look into, although i'm sure that has probably, you know, 457d a lot -- happened a lot in wartime on the battlefield within the ranks of the military. the commanding officers do have a lot of latitude to punish things like that. >> [inaudible] >> could be, yeah. wayne? >> yeah. do you think that treason isn't used against a lot of people because there's so many other laws that are a lot easier to use against them that do things wrong because treason's so narrowly defined within the constitution itself? >> no, i think that is a big part of it not only because of narrow definition, but because of the high bar that's set for
actually convicting someone. as i mentioned, if you have two witnesses to an overt act of treason, unless the defendant wants to admit it in open court, not bloodty likely in most -- bloody likely in most cases. there's a lot of cases where at least potentially you could have brought charges where that never happened. think of john walker lend, the american taliban, who was very big in the news around the time of 9/11. he actually had been fighting with al-qaeda in afghanistan and was captured by, you know, u.s. forces. he was not charged with treason, and i forget what he was charged with, but george w. bush at the time very -- wrote, you know, he was asked about that, and he just wrote off the possibility of a treason charge. i think he said, well, just because it's some kid that got misled, i don't want to do that. so he spent 20 years, but no life in prison, no death penalty. could be worse. tom? >> does the fact that the framers thought that treason had
to be treated in a certain way mean that all these other laws that create analogies to treason that are not given the same level of scrutiny, if you will, are inconsistent with what the framers intended to be by having treason in the constitution in the first place? >> no, i think that is a very good point. the obvious work around that congress has found over and over and over again is simply pass different laws that were it not for treason, could have a much lower bar. and even some of the framers of the constitution who wrote this found their own work-arounds very early on with the alien and sedition act which had the concept of judicial review existed at the time probably would have been truck down as unconstitutional -- struck down as unconstitutional. the espionage and sedition acts of world war i, they were upheld.
the smith act, obviously, for a time, a lot of these things. so the politicians are a creative bunch, and they have found no shortage of ways to kind of get around that very narrow definition. all right. well, one more chance, and if nothing else, then i'd love to sign some books. [applause] >> thank you very much. we'll shortly begin signing the books. if you haven't purchased your books already, please do so before joining the signing line. it just makes it a heck of a lot easier for us to get things done here. also, if you'd be so kind as to, please, fold be up your chairs and lay them against the nearest vertical service, that would also be lovely of you. thank you so much for coming. [inaudible conversations]
>> booktv tapes hundreds of author programs throughout the country all year long. here's a look at some of the events we'll be covering this week. on monday at busboys and poets in washington, d.c. dean baker, codirector of the center for economic and policy research, will argue that government policies have led to the upward redistribution of wealth over the past 40 years. then on tuesday veronica chambers will provide her thoughts on the legacy of first lady michelle obama at the free library of philadelphia. we're back in washington on wednesday at sixth and i historic synagogue to hear from georgetown university professor or michael eric dyson whose most recent book is on race relations in america. that same evening in ohio at the hudson library, brad ricka will call the life of the first female u.s. district attorney. and on thursday at the
powerhouse arena in brooklyn, new york, rolling stone contributing editor matt taibi will look back at the 2016 presidential election. that's a look at some of the author programs booktv will be covering this week. many of these events are open to the public. look for them to air in the near future on booktv on c-span2. [inaudible conversations] >> good afternoon. thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for turning out on a cold, late fall day. i can assure you, it's going to be worth your time. i'm dan disalvo, associate professor of political science at city college of new york and a senior fellow here at the manhattan institute, and it's my pleasure today to introduce our speaker, beth