Does article 3 only refer to adhering to state enemies, or can these enemies be corporate, or individual?

Corporate as akin to private armies before the barons got checked (even say aiding ISIS though it was never fully a state actor de jure), and individual as those that have enough resources to cause equivalent damage to state use of force (say aiding Osama and 9/11)?

  • 1
    That enemies could be corporate or individual is an interesting theory, but I expect that the term "enemy" would be taken in the context of the preceding phrase, and that it would therefore mean an enemy that is "levying war against" the US.
    – phoog
    Aug 14 '18 at 13:37

The term "enemy" in the U.S. Constitution's definition of treason is generally considered to be a term of art that means a party against whom Congress has authorized the use of military force or a declared war.

The only such country in existence at this time, to the best of my knowledge, is North Korea. Terrorist organizations which had affiliated involved in the 9-11 attacks (including ISIS and Boko Haram) are also covered.

Russia is not an "enemy" of the United States, within the meaning of the constitutional definition of treason. Neither are any individuals or corporations in Russia, unless they are affiliated with a 9-11 terrorist organization.

An important statutory definition of "enemy" might also be considered informative to a court presented with this question, which is slightly broader (as it requires "hostilities" but does not require a full fledged war and does not require Congressional action):

According to 50 USCS § 2204 [Title 50. War and National Defense; Chapter 39. Spoils of War], enemy of the United States means any country, government, group, or person that has been engaged in hostilities, whether or not lawfully authorized, with the United States;

(3) the term "person" means

(A) any natural person;

(B) any corporation, partnership, or other legal entity; and

(C) any organization, association, or group.

In this context, "hostilities" would generally mean physical warfare acts like shooting Americans, or blowing up American property, in a warlike manner.

  • So a US citizen who gives aid and comfort to a foreign power engaged in a surprise attack against the US does not commit treason as long as he or she stops giving aid and comfort when congress authorizes military force against, or declares war on, the foreign power?
    – phoog
    Aug 15 '18 at 8:53
  • @phoog I'm not sure that that legal issue has ever been resolved definitively. There aren't a huge number of precedents related to treason period. Even if it wasn't treason, it isn't as if this wouldn't amount to any of a host of other crimes.
    – ohwilleke
    Aug 15 '18 at 19:19

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