Michele Bachmann is just one of many doing this, but here is what she said about NSA leaker Edward Snowden:
“Absolutely he’s a traitor. . . .
“The NSA was fastidious about following the law. There’s not one example that came out of any intentional violation of any kind from the law. I think what we saw today pretty clearly is the government isn’t doing what all of these stories are claiming it is.”
Aside from her newfound belief in government eavesdropping self-restraint, the former IRS lawyer also proved she doesn’t know the meanings to words.
There are a lot of words and expressions in the political lexicon that don’t make sense or just frankly irritate me. Isolationist, theocon, neo-Confederate, teachable moment, and in the context of the NSA leaks, treason.
Unlike the others, treason has a clear definition:
“The offense of attempting by overt acts to overthrow the government of the state to which the offender owes allegiance or to kill or personally injure the sovereign or the sovereign’s family.”
Judas, Benedict Arnold, Julius Rosenberg. Everybody collaborated with a cabal or another government and got payouts. Stupid is the traitor who does his deed and gets nothing in return for his treachery.
What compensation did Snowden receive from the Chinese? The Russians? Iran? The Tea Party?
Whatever Edward Snowden is, or for that matter Bradley Manning, it is not a traitor.
What Snowden did was leak information to an American journalist writing for a British newspaper about the American government seizing cell phone records and internet search histories of American citizens. When he delivers a thumb drive to the Kremlin or picks up an AK-47 and starts shooting at al Qaeda in Syria, maybe then we can talk about treason.
It’s easy to dismiss everything Bachmann says as the rantings of a crazed, right-wing, evangelical, attention-seeking, etc. lunatic. But when she says treason, she’s reading from the same dictionary as Obama’s Justice Department when it prosecutes whistleblowers under the Espionage Act. Spying obviously had nothing to do with what sent John Kiriakou to prison or had Bradley Manning sleeping in his underwear in a cold cell. It had everything to do with embarrassing the Obama administration and pulling back, just a little, of the curtain of the national security state. Still, Bachmann, who has occasionally broken with the war party, illustrates the confusion many Republicans have when it comes to foreign policy and civil liberties when they urge continuance of surveillance of Americans.
Words matter, so if treason can be twisted to mean simply embarrassing the government, then everybody can be made an enemy of the state. Perhaps even congresswomen who throw around phrases like “gangster government” and “anti-American” while leading protest movements.