Friday, May 07, 2010

Cool your jets, America

...and I'm not the only one offering that advice to a country apparently in the grip of full-scale panic.

A few days ago, provoked by illegal immigration, it was Arizona, giving a free hand to police to harass and detain Hispanic-looking people, whether American citizens or not. Now, set off by suspected Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad, Senators Joe Lieberman and the newly-minted Scott Brown
have introduced a bill in Congress to strip suspected American terrorists of their citizenship.

Note that word "suspected" in there. Never mind the presumption of innocence: now someone merely thought to be a terrorist would lose citizenship rights, no longer have to be Mirandized, and could, if captured abroad, be tried by a kangaroo military commission instead of a real court.

But a line seems to have been crossed at this point. And it's not just the usual progressive suspects who are calling for calm.

Here's (gulp!) David Frum, who points out that this measure will generate more, not less, litigation:

In [1967], Afroyim v. Rusk, Justice Hugo Black wrote:

“The very nature of our free government makes it completely incongruous to have a rule of law under which a group of citizens temporarily in office can deprive another group of citizens of their citizenship. We hold that the Fourteenth Amendment was designed to, and does, protect every citizen of this Nation against a congressional forcible destruction of his citizenship, whatever his creed, color, or race. Our holding does no more than to give to this citizen that which is his own, a constitutional right to remain a citizen in a free country unless he voluntarily relinquishes that citizenship.”

Following the case, Congress amended the nationality law. U.S. citizens can be deprived of their citizenship if – and only if – they have betrayed their allegiance to the United States “with the intention of relinquishing United States nationality.”
Which means that if Lieberman’s law were in effect today, we would not short-circuit any legal process against alleged terrorists like Faisal Shahzad. To the contrary! We’d be on our way to court right now to litigate the issue whether the Times Square bomber’s bombing plot indicated an intent to relinquish his nationality. Only after taking that issue through trial and appeal (maybe multiple appeals) could we get to work questioning and punishing him.

And here's (gasp!) Glenn Beck:

“He’s a citizen of the United States, so I say we uphold the laws and the Constitution on citizens. He has all the rights under the Constitution. We don’t shred the Constitution when it’s popular.”[emphasis added]

Who'da thunk it?

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