WASHINGTON: A senior US lawmaker introduced a new bill on Wednesday which will allow authorities to revoke the citizenship of a terror suspect.
Two senior lawmakers, Senator John McCain, a Republican, and Senator Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, said they would support the proposed legislation.
“Americans should lose their citizenship rights, if they’re designated an enemy combatant, yes,” said Senator McCain, who was the Republican presidential candidate in the 2008 election.
“That sounds like something I’d support, but I’d have to look at the legislation,” said Senator Schumer who chairs the Senate Rules Committee.
Senator Lieberman, who chairs the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs, proposed changing the existing citizenship laws soon after US authorities confirmed arresting a Pakistani-American in the Times Square bombing attempt.
Mr Lieberman’s bill would amend a decades-old law which says that any American who fights for a foreign military loses his or her citizenship.
There is one exception to the existing law: Americans are allowed to serve in the Israeli Defence Forces without losing their citizenship. (Editor's Note: This is a misrepresentation of the facts. See note below.)
If the legislation is made a law, it would allow authorities to try US nationals involved in terrorist activities in military tribunals.
“I’m now putting together legislation to amend that to include any individual American citizen who is found to be involved in a foreign terrorist organisation as defined by the Department of State would be deprived of their citizenship rights,” said Senator Lieberman.
Mr Lieberman is moving the legislation as a standalone measure, according to aides, who said that does not preclude them from attempting to amend it to other legislation down the line.
An aide said that Congressman Jason Altmire, a Democrat, is introducing companion legislation.
Congressman Peter T. King of New York, the ranking Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, said he was troubled by the rush to charge Faisal as a civilian. “In these kinds of cases, the first preference should be a military commission because you can get more information,” he said.
Senator McCain also objected to the administration’s decision to grant the suspects the rights reserved for a citizen.
“When we detain terrorism suspects, our top priority should be finding out what intelligence they have that could prevent future attacks and save American lives,” he said.
“We’ve got to be far less interested in protecting the privacy rights of these terrorists than in collecting information that may lead us to details of broader schemes to carry out attacks in the United States,” said Senator Christopher S. Bond, the ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee.
In a civilian trial, a judge can toss out evidence taken from a suspect who has not been read his Miranda rights.
“It’s time for us to look at whether we want to amend that law to apply it to American citizens who choose to become affiliated with foreign terrorist organisations,” said Senator Lieberman while explaining his proposal to amend citizenship laws.
Congress needs to decide “whether they should not also be deprived automatically of their citizenship and therefore be deprived of rights that come with that citizenship when they are apprehended and charged with a terrorist act”, he said.
“If you have joined an enemy of the United States in attacking the United States and trying to kill Americans I think you sacrifice your rights of citizenship,” Mr Lieberman said.
He said he did not know how law-enforcement officials interrogated Faisal, but he believed the administration should have used the recently-created High Value Detainee Interrogation Group in those interrogations.
“My feeling is that if the group makes a judgment that this was a terrorist act, the person should be turned over to the military,” Mr Lieberman said.
From Pakistan Dawn.
Under current law, US citizens cannot be tried in military commissions. The 2006 law that outlines guidelines for the commissions authorises them only for “alien unprivileged enemy belligerent(s).
Section 349 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1481), as amended, states that U.S. citizens are subject to loss of citizenship if they perform certain specified acts voluntarily and with the intention to relinquish U.S. citizenship. These acts include:
1. obtaining naturalization in a foreign state (Sec. 349 (a) (1) INA);
2. taking an oath, affirmation or other formal declaration to a foreign state or its political subdivisions (Sec. 349 (a) (2) INA);
3. entering or serving in the armed forces of a foreign state engaged in hostilities against the U.S. or serving as a commissioned or non-commissioned officer in the armed forces of a foreign state (Sec. 349 (a) (3) INA).
There are exemptions within Israel allowing US citizens to serve in Israel's military, but this too can constitute cause for forfeiting one's US citizenship.