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Joe Lieberman Introduces Insane And Unconstitutional Citizenship Stripping Bill

Today, Joe Lieberman introduced a bill that would allow the government to revoke the citizenship of a person merely accused of being associated with a terrorist group:

Sen. Joe Lieberman introduced Thursday legislation that would strip Americans of their citizenship if they are arrested overseas for their affiliation with a foreign terrorist organization.

The bill would not apply to Times Square bombing suspect Faisal Shahzad because he was captured on U.S. soil. But if an American like Shahzad is captured overseas and found to be connected with a foreign terrorist organization, that person would be stripped of citizenship and could be hauled before a military commission.

“I believe that anyone apprehended and charged with attempt to commit a terrorist act against the United State is effectively a prisoner of war and should be tried by the military system of justice,” the Connecticut independent senator said at a news conference flanked by other lawmakers supporting the bill, including Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., and Rep. Jason Altmire, D-Pa. who is introducing a companion bill in the House.

“The reason we’re doing this, being an American citizen means something,” Lieberman said. “To me, somebody who takes up arms against the United States, whether they wear the uniform of a foreign country or associate with a foreign terrorist organization, has given up their right to be an American citizen.”

The bill would expand a 1940s era law that requires citizens fighting in a military force that is an enemy of the U.S. to renounce their citizenship to include those who are part of a terrorist organization.

The problems with this proposed law are numerous, but the major ones can be summarized as follows

1. The process is too vague

[W]hat constitutes ‘ties’? How is it conclusively proven that this person was working with a foreign-based organization? What if they’re wrongfully accused? What’s the standard of proof? Lieberman’s bill would create a new ‘authority’ to determine all those things.”

2. Doesn’t it violate due process to strip someone’s citizenship before trial ?

“If an American citizen is accused of terrorist associations, he/she would lose citizenship status before a conviction? In Lieberman’s vision, the defendant is punished and then gets due process? What if authorities make a mistake and accuse someone who’s innocent? Would officials eventually give citizenship back with an ‘Oops, Our Bad’ card? Senator, Yale Law School called. It wants your diploma back.”

3. Why Shahzad and not Charles Manson ?

“Can someone explain to me–hopefully using graphs, and small words–why Joe Lieberman is willing to share the precious blessing of American citizenship with Charles Manson, Gary Ridgeway, and David Berkowitz, but wants citizenship stripped from a guy who strapped some firecrackers to a bag of non-explosive fertilizer?”

4. Absolute power corrupts absolutely:

[O]ne day, I and my clique will rise to power. And I anticipate the day when Attorney General Wheeler and Defense Secretary Ackerman take a dossier filled with secret evidence to brief President Hamsher in the Oval Office. As cabinet officers relentlessly focused on the public safety, we agree that time is of the essence in disposing of a threat to national security that emanates from an American citizen, and we simply can’t be put in the position of affording that citizen such cushy rights as the right to due process of law before the government denies him of his life or his liberty or his property. President Hamsher is a wise and judicious woman, and she sees it our way. Immediately after leaving the Oval Office, I instruct a JSOC detachment to apprehend former citizen Joe Lieberman. (We did away with Posse Comitatus earlier.) You’ll hear from him later, after the threat has receded, and the Hamsher administration pledges to treat him humanely, consistent with military necessity. We have evidence justifying our decision, and no, you can’t see it.

More importantly, though, it would appear that Lieberman’s bill could be unconstitutional. In Afroyim v. Rusk 386 U.S. 263, the Supreme Court of the United States held as follows:

[A]ny doubt as to whether prior to the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment Congress had the power to deprive a person against his will of citizenship once obtained should have been removed by the unequivocal terms of the Amendment itself. It provides its own constitutional rule in language calculated completely to control the status of citizenship: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States . . . are citizens of the United States . . . .” There is no indication in these words of a fleeting citizenship, good at the moment it is acquired but subject to destruction by the Government at any time. Rather the Amendment can most reasonably be read as defining a citizenship which a citizen keeps unless he voluntarily relinquishes it. Once acquired, this Fourteenth Amendment citizenship was not to be shifted, canceled, or diluted at the will of the Federal Government, the States, or any other governmental unit.

It is true that the chief interest of the people in giving permanence and security to citizenship in the Fourteenth Amendment was the desire to protect Negroes. The Dred Scott decision, 19 How. 393, had shortly before greatly disturbed many people about the status of Negro citizenship. But the Civil Rights Act of 1866, 14 Stat. 27, had already attempted to confer citizenship on all persons born or naturalized in the United States. Nevertheless, when the Fourteenth Amendment passed the House without containing any definition of citizenship, the sponsors of the Amendment in the Senate insisted on inserting a constitutional definition and grant of citizenship. They expressed fears that the citizenship so recently conferred on Negroes by the Civil Rights Act could be just as easily taken away from them by subsequent Congresses, and it was to provide an insuperable obstacle against every governmental effort to strip Negroes of their newly acquired citizenship that the first clause was added to the Fourteenth Amendment. 16    Senator Howard, who sponsored the Amendment in the Senate, thus explained the purpose of the clause:

“It settles the great question of citizenship and removes all doubt as to what persons are or are not citizens of the United States. . . . We desired to put this question of citizenship and the rights of citizens . . . under the civil rights bill beyond the legislative power . . . .” Cong. Globe, 39th Cong., 1st Sess., 2890, 2896 (1866).

This undeniable purpose of the Fourteenth Amendment to make citizenship of Negroes permanent and secure would be frustrated by holding that the Government can rob a citizen of his citizenship without his consent by simply proceeding to act under an implied general power to regulate foreign affairs or some other power generally granted. Though the framers of the Amen

In other words, Congress has no power to strip a person of their citizenship absent their consent, or absent evidence of fraud in the process of naturalization.

That would seem to be the end of that.

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