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On treason

It never dies!

People in the comments of my earlier post keep saying “aid and comfort,” which in today’s climate is one of those ominous codes meaning “he’s a traitor.” One guy even said “What Arnett has done would have gotten him arrested and jailed in WWII.” So I thought I’d do a little research on the nature of treason.

Turns out it’s a slippery beast. In particular, you have to prove that the guy wasn’t acting under duress, and you have to prove that there was the intent to cause harm. In Cramer v. United States, the Supreme Court said “On the other hand, a citizen may take actions which do aid and comfort the enemy… but if there is no adherence to the enemy in this, if there is no intent to betray, there is no treason.” If Arnett believed that he was providing aid and comfort, that’s probably sufficient. If he didn’t — and see a slew of previous comments from me on the reasonable belief that most of what he said was nothing you couldn’t read in a million other places — that’s probably not.

Now, in Chandler v. United States, Douglas Chandler was found guilty for participating in propaganda broadcasts from Nazi Germany. But he was paid by the German government and actively assisted in planning the broadcasts, and clearly showed intent to betray. Aid and comfort alone are simply not enough. In Chandler’s case, there weren’t countless US media outlets saying the same things he was.

(I still think Arnett certainly deserved to be fired.)

The Tokyo Rose case, Toguri v. United States, is also fairly interesting and relevant. (Iva Toguri broadcast on Radio Tokyo during World War II, and in fact was convicted for treason, but President Ford later pardoned her on the grounds that the trial was a sham.)

One might enjoy The Law of Treason in the United States, by James Hurst, if one would like a good comprehensive background on what treason actually is.


  1. Matthew Matthew

    In this day and age I doubt very much he will be tried for treason. Unless he activily fired a weapon at a US/UK soldier he can spin what he did.

  2. Ah, so cynical…

    I think it’d be possible to get oneself tried for treason even for broadcasting activities. We still try spies for treason on occasion, as well we should.

  3. Page Page

    I’ve been researching Treason for a paper that I’m doing for law school. The main reason it is so hard to get a conviction for treason is the burden of proof. It takes alot for a person to either admit to a treasonous act in open court or to have 2 witnesses who actually saw the act, not just heard about it (hearsay) who are willing and able to testify.

  4. anonymous anonymous

    I met Douglas Chandler at Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary in 1952 and later, unfortunately, married his daughter. I’d be interested in further information about the man–who was a thoroughly unsymathetic character.

  5. IntlGuy IntlGuy

    To the person who posted a msg on August 23, 2003: I, too, met Douglas Chandler. In my case, it was while riding a train in Germany in the 1970’s. I got to listen to this 80-ish man talk about his (still) extreme right wing political views (ad nauseum), his experiences as the National Geographic’s “representative” in Europe prior to WWII, his experiences as a radio broadcaster in Germany during the war, his being captured, detained, tried as a war criminal (I think) and then imprisoned until being released (he said) by RFK during JFK’s presidency, etc. He was an unrepentant Nazi, to the end. Unfortunately, as a fellow in my 20’s, I was somewhat astonished by this “meeting with history”, and listened to him thoroughly, not fully appreciating the gravity of his crimes. Still, it was an interesting exposure to an obscure part of WWII history. Am interested in your own exposure to him – and a bit surprised inasmuch as he told me he had a daughter who was a German physician (living in Freiburg) at the time. A different daughter? I have a bit more to say about him, although only from discussions with him. If of interest, contact me at the email address I have listed(but please understand that I do not regularly check this email account, due to being inundated with junk email. Write “DOUGLAS CHANDLER!” in the Subject: field, and repeat your message if at first it does not get through. 🙂

    • Benjamin Goldstein Benjamin Goldstein

      Hello, my name is Benjamin Goldstein and I am an undergraduate student at Columbia University researching interwar journalism and William Randolph Hearst’s connections to fascist powers. A sample of my research, completed through a Silas Palmer Hoover Institution Research Fellowship, can be found here:

      I am researching Douglas Chandler and would be very interested in speaking with anyone who met him or corresponded with him. Please feel free to email me at or call me at 410 245 4897. Thank you so much and I look forward to hearing from you.


      Benjamin Goldstein

      • Good luck! I’m not sure if anyone who commented earlier will see this, but hopefully someone will.

        I enjoyed the research sample you linked to. If you have a blog or Twitter account I can follow for updates, I’d be interested. The question of journalistic appeasement of fascism is pretty interesting.

        I’ve emailed you off-blog with a bit more info that might help.

        • Benjamin Goldstein Benjamin Goldstein

          Very sorry but I never seemed to have gotten the email! If you could send it again, that would be much appreciated! Thank you so much.

          • Unfortunately it seems lost in one of my blog software transitions. Sorry!

            • Benjamin Goldstein Benjamin Goldstein

              Hello, this is Benjamin Goldstein again. I am currently a Fulbright Fellow at the Free University of Berlin continuing my research, and will be passing by Tenerife soon. I will try to dig into this mystery. If anyone has any additional information to help, please feel free to email me at or call/message me at +1 443 574 6684. Thank you!

              • Thank you for keeping us posted!

  6. anonymous anonymous

    Douglas Chandler had two daughters by a first wife. I believe he had two additional daughters by a second wife. I was married to Patricia Chandler who would be 69 years old if she is still alive. She lived in New York City circa 1952 forward. A daughter who is a physician is probably from a second marriage. A daughter, sister to Patricia, would be in her seventies at this time andf I don’t recall her having been a physician.When I met Douglas Chandler at Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary, I came with his daughter, he despised me — and I’m not even Jewish. I’d been out of the U.S. military less than ten years at the time, and harbored deep negative feelings about the Germany we of that generation came to know. I’m surprised to hear that President Kennedy paroled him, although by the ’70’s he was probably harmless though obnoxious.

  7. anonymous anonymous

    According to John Carver Edwards (in Berlin Calling: American Broadcasters in Service to the Third Reich), Chandler had two daughters by his first wife, Laura Jay Wurts. In September 1931, when the Chandlers moved to France, the elder daughter (Laurette) was five and the younger daughter (Patricia) was two. They would both be in their mid-to-late 70’s if still alive. Bergmeier & Lotz (in Hitler’s Airwaves) report that another daughter (Sylvia) was successful in getting JFK to commute the remainder of Chandler’s sentence in August 1963.
    In July 1939, the Chandler family was living on Korcula in Yugoslavia. Some Americans on the cruise ship Marco Polo made the acquaintance of Douglas and his daughter Patricia that summer and recorded the meeting in a travel journal which I later purchased. I am interested in knowing when and where Douglas Chandler died.

  8. IntlGuy IntlGuy

    THank you, gentelmen, for the additional comments.

    When I met Chandler, it was probably in the mid to late 1970’s. At the time I met him in the train in Germany – he got on in Freiburg or I did, I believe – he was travelling with a much younger woman, who was, I believe, Spanish. He was travelling with a “Deutscher Fremden-Pass” (some kind of passport issued by the West German government to people who were stateless but had some connection, it would seem, to the West German state – his connection perhaps being as a “pensioner” (?) of the German state?) and lived, I am almost certain, in the Canary Islands. This is a strong recollection on my part; it was a Spanish island. In fact, I actually corresponded with the man one time, and may still have the scribbled note he sent me, and, perhaps, the address.

    At any rate, while this may be a clue to where he was living when he died, I do not know the date. He was a very old and feeble man, physically, when I met him – my recollection, for some reason, is that he was 86, and while this may be correct, it may also only be approximate – so he is no doubt long since gone from the scene. Whether he died in the Canary Islands, who knows; but it is a good lead. Good luck.

    The indication indicated above, to the extent that he was released by JFK in 1963, is very much consistent with what he told me. However, when he told the story, he placed the emphasis on RFK having played the main role in his release, with JFK’s agreement being decisive but him not being the initiator of the event.

    Otherwise, several things stick in my mind from one long train ride’s conversation with Chandler. One was his insistance that the American government – which, according to him, took away his American citizenship at the moment they put him on a bridge headed into Canada, with the order to never return – had no legal right to take that citizenship away. Who knows; I certainly don’t. His pseudo-legal argument was that a person must GIVE UP the citizenship, that it cannot be taken away. I believe that is a weak argument – seems that I remember something about service in the government of a foreign country being reason for losing one’s citizenship; and seeking out and acquiring citizenship in another country is, I believe, also grounds for a native-born American’s losing their citizenship; etc. Certainly it would seem that Chandler would have been in danger of losing his citizenship because of his broadcasting for the Nazis…

  9. Fascinating stuff — thank you both for your insight into this matter. If either of you are in Boston and would care to, I’d be quite pleased to buy you a drink.

  10. Sibyl Barsky Grucci Sibyl Barsky Grucci

    I was a friend of Chandler’s daughter Patricia, but lost track of her. Anyone have any information…I would like any news.

  11. IntlGuy IntlGuy

    I indicated in earlier msgs that I met Chandler and his wife? companion? by accident when relatively young and travelling in Europe. We were completely by accident in the same train compartment together – travelling from Freiburg to, it appears, Cologne (I have forgotten the reason for that trip) in 1975 – May or June, I believe. As a naive youth, fascinated by the chance to hear history firsthand, and at that time more non-judgemental than I have become, I somewhat naively (I admit) corresponded a few times with Chandler and his wife (?) after I spoke with them that day.

    I today found all the correspondence I received from them, all within a few months at most of our meeting – one letter typed by Chandler himself, and otherwise just post cards from his “wife”, all from the Canary Islands, where they wer eliving. (Note that from her handwriting and the fact she writes in German, it is clear that she is German, not Spanish.)

    For the benefit of anyone who may be attempting to trace the last years of Chandler’s wife, I believe it would not be indiscrete to reveal the following information from his letters, so many years after the fact:

    – correspondence dated: August-December 1975
    – sent from: el Monturrio 9, Orotava, Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain
    – details: Chandler was 86, had just gone through three operations, and claimed to be recovering rather well from them

    Based on his age, his medical problems, and the fact all this occurred 29 years ago, I am relatively certain he would not have survived too many years more, at most.

    As we were only exchanging banal greetings, we stopped corresponding after Christmas of 1975. I did not receive any notice of his death, so am unable to provide that information. It may or may not be the case that the end of our correspondence coincided with his death.

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