Treason. It’s a unique kind of capitol offense, as much thought crime as physical threat, and since the days of Benedict Arnold, Americans have held a special hatred for turncoats. So what’s with this kid from California? John Walker joined the Taliban. He knew that suicide bombers were in the United States, and he did nothing. He carried a gun in battle against American soldiers. Sounds like a textbook case, all the more so because the levers of United States law enforcement are in the hands of John Ashcroft, who’s made it clear he’s got no sympathy for Walker. Yet for some strategic, legal, or perhaps philosophical reasons, the government is charging the young man from Marin County with conspiracy instead of tagging him with treason.
George Fletcher, Cardozo Professor of Jurisprudence at the Columbia Law School
Katrina Vanden Heuvel, editor of The Nation
and Buckner Melton, Constitutional Historian and professor of law at the UNC School of Law.