The decision to charge alleged al-Qaeda propagandist Adam Gadahn with treason is a gamble by the U.S. government, which has not pursued such a case in more than 50 years and has a mixed track record for convictions, says the Washington Post. Gadahn, 28, was indicted by a federal grand jury in Santa Ana, Ca., based on his alleged appearance in numerous al-Qaeda videotapes calling for the death of Americans and for attacks on U.S. targets. “One of the reasons that I think Gadahn was charged was because of his intentional, brazen and conspicuous activities,” said Brian Levin of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University at San Bernardino.
Fewer than three dozen U.S. citizens have ever been charged with treason, which is defined in the Constitution and requires two witnesses or a confession in court for a conviction. Previous treason defendants includes former vice president Aaron Burr, who was acquitted of attempting to set up his own republic, and abolitionist John Brown, who was hanged n after he and his followers captured the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry. The last flurry of treason cases was prosecuted during and after World War II. Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty said prosecutors “are very confident about the satisfaction of the two-witness rule,” in part because “a number of individuals would be in a position to be able to identify Adam Gadahn” in the videos.