American citizens could be innocent until proven suspicious and stripped of their rights under the proposed Terrorist Expatriation Act [pdf], which would amend a 1940s law aimed at traitors who helped the Nazis or Japanese. The bill, introduced by Senator Joe Lieberman yesterday, would authorize the State Department to revoke the citizenship of any U.S. national suspected of providing "material support or resources to a Foreign Terrorist Organization or who engages in or supports hostilities against the United States or its allies." No trial would be necessary, just a signature from the Secretary of State.
During a press conference yesterday, Lieberman said the arrest of failed Times Square car bomber Faisal Shahzad shows you can't let certain criminal suspects have due process. "Our enemies today are even more willing than the Nazis or fascists were to kill innocent civilian Americans here in our homeland," Lieberman told reporters. Wow, we were skeptical until he reminded us about the Nazis—we'll give up any Constitutional rights if Joe will just save us from the Enemy of the Month! But not everyone's convinced. John Bellinger, a legal adviser to the Secretary of State during the Bush administration, tells Huffington Post:
[Lieberman's bill] sounds like a draconian solution. I assume the Senate has thought through the constitutional issues but I would want to see what the standards are for stripping someone of their citizenship and what opportunities they would have for notice and to challenge the decision... It certainly seems like a far-reaching step.
Joe Lieberman: making the Bush administration seem enlightened. And he's not alone; Lieberman was joined yesterday by Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., and Reps. Jason Altmire, D-Penn., and Charlie Dent, R-Penn. They say the bill is intended to block Americans who are suspected of receiving terror training abroad from returning home. We bolded the word "suspected" there because without a trial, there is no established guilt—it's how our already imperfect justice system works. The Terrorist Expatriation Act would enable the government to skip that whole annoying civilian trial part and just cut straight to Guantanamo. Columnist Ann Woolner writes:
With the arrest of a Pakistani-born naturalized American charged with trying to car bomb Times Square, citizenship seems suddenly like one of those bizarre legal technicalities that stand in the way of justice and national security. It isn’t, and it doesn’t.
Yes, agents read Faisal Shahzad the same Miranda warnings, and the law gives him the same due process rights that the Constitution grants the rest of us, including who knows how many law-abiding citizens he was apparently trying to kill. So what?
The law already allows cops to delay the Miranda warning under exigent circumstances, such as the possibility that another bomb is about to detonate. Until they were satisfied there was no assault in the works, agents questioned Shahzad without reminding him he didn’t have to talk. That is also what they did with the Christmas Day underwear bomber, arrested at the Detroit airport.
To give you an even clearer picture of how far back in time Lieberman wants to take us, look no further than House Republican Minority Leader John Boehner. Yes, that John Boehner. He told reporters yesterday, "If they’re a U.S. citizen, until they’re convicted of some crime, I don’t know how you would attempt to take their citizenship away."