Aid and Comfort
Aid and Comfort
To render assistance or counsel. Any act that deliberately strengthens or tends to strengthen enemies of the United States, or that weakens or tends to weaken the power of the United States to resist and attack such enemies is characterized as aid and comfort.
Article 3, section 3, clause 1 of the U.S. Constitution specifies that the giving of aid and comfort to the enemy is an element in the crime of Treason. Aid and comfort may consist of substantial assistance or the mere attempt to provide some support; actual help or the success of the enterprise is not relevant.
In the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, there was a great deal of concern expressed about terrorist "sleeper cells" in the United States. Sleeper cells can be individual terrorists or groups of terrorists who blend in with society at large; they remain inactive, even for years, until they receive orders to carry out their mission. Some of the perpetrators of the september 11 attacks belonged to such sleeper cells.
Widespread concern over terrorist sleeper cells fueled suspicion that some U.S. citizens were knowingly providing aid and comfort to terrorist cells located in the United States. Aid and comfort was allegedly provided by shielding the identities of terrorists from U.S. authorities, and providing funds, transportation, and other forms of assistance to terrorists who plotted against U. S. interests.
In the subsequent U.S. military action against the Taliban government in Afghanistan and members of the al Qaeda terrorist organization located there, which started in October 2001, U.S. forces captured John Walker Lindh, a 20-year-old American citizen who was trained by and was fighting for the Taliban against the U.S. government. The Walker Lindh case garnered enormous coverage in the press, with many claiming that Walker Lindh's role as a combatant for the Taliban was tantamount to treason as it gave aid and comfort to enemies of the United States.
AID AND COMFORT. The constitution of the United States, art. 8, s. 3, declares, that adhering to the enemies of the United States, giving them aid and comfort, shall be treason. These words, as they are to be understood in the constitution, have not received a full judicial construction. They import, however, help, support, assistance, countenance, encouragement. The word aid, which occurs in the Stat. West. 1, c. 14, is explained by Lord Coke (2 just. 182) as comprehending all persons counselling, abetting, plotting, assenting, consenting, and encouraging to do the act, (and he adds, what is not applicable to the Crime to treason,) who are not present when the act is done, See, also, 1 Burn's Justice, 5, 6; 4 Bl. Com. 37, 38.