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O'Reilly vs Churchill - Is the Professor Guilty of Treason?

Reported by Marie Therese - February 11, 2005

Yesterday, Bill O'Reilly interviewed self-described conservative Indian Dr. David Yeagley. More on that interview later. I need to do a bit more research on the good doctor. In the meantime, here's the transcript of Bill O'Reilly's interview with Commander Greg Noone, former JAG, from 2/9/05 on The O'Reilly Factor.

Noone is a member of the Public International Law and Policy Group, which has been nominated for the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize. Their mission statement says that the Group "was founded in 1996. The Group provides pro bono international legal services to states in transition, newly independent states and developing states as well as non-governmental organizations, international tribunals, and international organizations in need of specialized public international legal counsel. The Group is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization composed of public international lawyers and foreign relations specialists who are committed to promoting the rule of law in international relations."

BILL O'Reilly: Continuing now with our lead story, the radical professor Ward Churchill situation. Can he be tried for either treason or sedition? Joining us now from Pittsburgh is Commander Greg Noone, a former prosecutor for the US Navy. Alright, Commander, let's take the tradition - I'm sorry - the treason potential charge. First, it's Article 2 Section 3 [N.B. It's actually Article 3 Section 3] of the U.S. Constitution. (Reads) "Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying was against them or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort." (Stops reading.) So, aid and comfort to the enemy - does that cover it?

NOONE: Well that - as you said, there must be an overt act witnessed by two witnesses, an intent to betray the United States and then that act provides aid and comfort to the enemy. And, you know, this is a very unique crime in the United States. It's the only crime listed in the U.S. Constitution. So, the framers not only put the crime in there but defined it. They paid that much attention to it, so it's not something to be taken lightly and the framers made it as such.

O'Reilly: OK. Would you - the last treason case was brought in 1949 in the USA. Do you think that Churchill runs the risk of being tried for treason here?

NOONE: In my opinion, Bill, no. There have only been 30 prosecutions in the history of the United States. The last eight or so related to World War II, which you're talking about ...

O'Reilly: Right.

NOONE: ... the last one being about that time frame in the early 50s. Of those - five of those eight dealt with propaganda cases - people who were either working on the radio broadcast of the Nazis or the Japanese, really trying to demoralize the troops. They were convicted of treason and, I think, rightfully so.

O'Reilly: OK. But wait a minute. Now. You know, Tokyo Rose and these other people, they were working getting paid for [by] the foreign governments. We don't suspect Churchill's getting paid for by Al Qaeda or anything like that. But certainly he's demoralizing particularly Americans who lost people on 9/11 and giving aid and comfort to Al Qaeda by saying they have a right to kill babies or whatever insane thing he's ranting. Aid and comfort, sir?"

NOONE: No. I don't think we're there. I think it would be a very difficult charge to prove. It's a very rigorous context. Legal scholars agree that it's actually harder to prove treason than it is to prove mass murder. Now what this guy said - obviously grotesque distortions, distasteful to every person hearing it - and the reality of it is that you get into that issue where freedom of speech ends and where treason would begin and I don't think that we could prove the aid and the comfort part.

O'Reilly (overtalks last 6 words): Alright. He's not there yet. Alright, let's go to sedition. (Reads) "Federal crime, supporting revolution against the government" Stops reading) - certainly he's doing that - (Reads) "or supporting an enemy of the nation in time of war through speeches, publications and organizations." (Stops reading) Certainly he's doing that. The problem is we're not in a time of war because Congress hasn't declared war.

NOONE: Right

O'Reilly: Can ya' get him on sedition anyway?

NOONE: No, I don't think we can. I mean, you know, this guy, I think the only thing we can charge him with at this point is exceeding his 15 minutes of fame and give him a one-way ticket back to obscurity. This guy is not someone who is gonna rise to the level of treason or sedition. And sedition is really there for someone tryin' to overthrow the government, help overthrow the government. This guy's a bit player and it wouldn't rise to that level, in my opinion.

O'Reilly: OK. Becau - you know. But he wants the government to be overthrown, but the fact that he doesn't have the power to do it or he's not aiding the enemy in a material way, you would say that that doesn't rise, huh?

NOONE: Probably not, Bill. That's correct.

O'Reilly: Alright. So there's really - this guy can continue to hurt people and by hurting people - 9/11 families, particularly - with his speech - it's [his?] hate speech, ‘cause he hates his country - um - and we can't - the authorities really can't do anything against him, that's the bottom line.

NOONE: No, I don't think they can, Bill.

O'Reilly: Alright, Commander. We appreciate your comin' on in and defining it for us.


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