Thursday, May 6, 2010

Sentence First, Verdict After

Greg Sargent of The Plum Line reports that Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) wants to strip citizenship of people who are “involved with foreign terrorist organizations.”

Two things you should know about this: First, it isn’t just some paranoid liberal nightmare. It’s actually moving forward. Lieberman is going to hold a presser tomorrow to introduce the bill, I’m told, along with Rep. Jason Altmire of Pennsylvania. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has already signaled he could support this.

Second, Lieberman’s office has clarified to me how the law would work: It would empower the State Department to conclude — on its own — that Americans are conspiring with terror groups and should be stripped of their citizenship.

Lieberman’s law would amend an earlier statute that details other things that can cost you citizenship: Serving in the army of a foreign state, pledging allegiance to a foreign state, and so on. In those cases the State Department decides whether your disloyalty merits loss of citizen status. Lieberman’s law would add involvement with a foreign terror organization — as opposed to a foreign state — to this list.

Sen. Schumer has since come out against the bill.

This is insane. Aside from the fact that it is blatantly unconstitutional on its face — no citizen shall be deprived of life or liberty without due process of law and all that — it gives the sole power of determining who is in jeopardy of losing their citizenship to the State Department, not the courts, leaving the determination of citizenship up to a bureaucrat. There’s your worst right-wing paranoid scenario for you.

Steve M at NMMNB notes that if the full letter of this law were applied across the board — it says “foreign terrorist organizations,” and logically that would include right-wing terrorists, too — it would strip citizenship from people like Grover Norquist, Tom Tancredo, and Donald Rumsfeld, who support groups who are intent on overthrowing the Iranian government, and Rep. Peter King (R-NY), who’s a big supporter of the IRA. Ollie North, who supported the right-wing death squads in Central America during the Reagan administration, would also be stripped of his citizenship. Okay, so maybe Mr. Lieberman is on to something here….