I wrote before about this poor Pakistani physician, Dr. Shakeel Afridi who is facing treason charges in Pakistan. Dr Afridi is accused of “helping the CIA use a vaccination campaign to try to collect DNA samples from people who lived in bin Laden’s compound.” The implication seems to be that since he aided the CIA, he committed treason.
This story has struck me odd, because charging the doctor with treason seems to imply Pakistani guilt in hiding Bin Laden. Why? Because treason means an extreme crime against one’s country. It is the divulging of military secrets or the attempt to injure or overthrow the government. So that suggests that Pakistan feels Bin Laden’s location was some kind of state secret!
I started a thought experiment, “If this happened in the U.S., would the person be accused of treason?” Let us say, for example, international fugitive Moammar Gadhafi smuggles himself in a cargo ship across the Atlantic and takes up residence in Newark. Nobody can find him. The Libyan revolution gets a tip and sends a note to everyone they know to be on the lookout. As it turns out, Gadhafi’s postman, an American married to a Libyan woman , recognizes him. They tell the wife’s brother who is a Libyan revolutionary. At this point, the postman has done nothing wrong—right? So, the Libyan revolutionaries can either tell U.S. authorities or take out Gadhafi themselves. If they take him out, then they have deal with the fact they transgressed on American soil. But the postman has nothing to do with it.
Of course, laws are different in Pakistan than in the U.S. Even so, giving information to a foreign government cannot be a crime in itself. If it was, probably half the Pakistani government would be guilty. Its only a crime if the information is a state secret. So there you go.