An article in the Chicago Tribune by Kaitlin Miller reported various extant laws in place the day following January 6, 2021. This list should probably be at all our fingertips:
Treason can broadly mean betrayal or treachery, but it is a federal crime — and the only crime expressly defined by the Constitution. Treason only applies to American citizens and can be committed by “levying war” against the U.S. or by giving American enemies “aid and comfort.” Both of these crimes require concrete action as well as an intent to betray the nation, according to the National Constitution Center. There have only been a few treason prosecutions in American history, and there has only been one person indicted for treason since 1954 and the last time someone was convicted was in 1952.
Sedition is a federal crime that falls short of the offense of treason. While the crime of treason requires action, sedition is any conspiracy to overthrow, put down or to destroy by force the government of the United States. This includes preventing, hindering or delaying the execution of any law of the United States or seizing, taking or possessing any property of the United States. Merely advocating for the use of force does not qualify as sedition as it is most likely protected by the First Amendment right to freedom of speech.
A coup is the sudden removal or displacement of authority that takes place outside the bounds of the law. So impeachment, which is a constitutional process for removing the president from office, is not a coup. Coup is short for the French term “coup d’etat,” which means overthrowing the government. Advocating for the overthrow of the government is a federal crime that includes advocating, abetting, advising or the necessity of overthrowing or destroying the U.S. government by force or violence, or by the assassination of any government officials. It also applies to anyone organizing, joining or affiliating with a group that encourages overthrowing the government
The 2001 Patriot Act expanded the government’s definition of terrorism to cover domestic, as opposed to international, terrorism. Under the U.S. code, domestic terrorism is defined as violent acts that are committed within the U.S. and are a violation of federal or state criminal laws that are intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination or kidnapping. The FBI characterizes domestic terrorism as violent extremism meant to further ideological goals stemming from political, religious, social, racial or environmental influences.
A failed state is when a government is unable to perform its basic functions such as education, security or governance, often due to civil war, crime, corruption or poverty. When a state is unable to control its people and resources or protect fundamental human rights, its citizens and the international community view its power as illegitimate. Examples of failed states include Afghanistan, Somalia and Sierra Leone.
A civil war is not simply violent conflict breaking out within a country. Civil wars take place between a state and one or more organized non-state actors within the state’s territory. These actors can be seeking either government control or succession and autonomy from the government. This is different from states fighting other states and from violence from non-state actors such as terrorists. Modern civil wars look quite different from America’s Civil War, which lasted from 1861 to 1865.
Voter fraud is a federal election crime in which someone knowingly and willfully deprives, defrauds or attempts to deprive or defraud the residents of a state of a fair and impartially conducted election process. This includes producing and submitting voter registration applications as well as producing, casting or tabulating ballots that are known by the person to be materially false, fictitious or fraudulent. This could be registering for someone who has died or casting a vote for someone who has moved. Voter fraud and suppression were rampant in the 19th and early 20th century, however, modern instances of fraud in America are very rare.
Anarchism is the belief that society should have no government, laws, police or any other authority. According to the FBI, this belief is perfectly legal and the majority of American anarchists are non-violent and non-criminal when advocating for their beliefs. Only anarchist extremism, which does involve violence and criminal acts, is considered a domestic terrorism threat.
There is no universally accepted definition of fascism, but this political movement or kind of regime is typically characterized by an autocratic or dictatorial leader, extreme militaristic nationalism, fetishization of masculinity and youth, contempt for electoral democracy, forcible suppression of opposition and exaltation of the nation above the individual. The term was coined by Europe’s first fascist leader, Italy’s Benito Mussolini, and the movement caught on in other European countries like Spain, France and Nazi Germany and later spread internationally to Argentina. Recently, the term has been commonly misused to criticize any kind of far-right or violent group.