Who says Congress is can’t come together for the common good?
Yesterday, in a rare display of bipartisanship, Senators Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and Scott Brown (R-MA) and Congressmen Jason Altmire (D-PA) and Charlie Dent (R-PA) introduced the Terrorist Expatriation Act.
It should be renamed the American Citizen Expatriation Act.
The bill aims to strip Americans of their citizenship if suspected of affiliating with a foreign terrorist organization and are apprehended abroad. It would amend the 1940s bill, 8 USC 1481, which gives the federal government the power to strip Americans of their citizenship if they choose to fight for a foreign military force. So far, the White House appears to not support the bill.
Senator Joe Lieberman, the bill’s main architect, wants to expand 8 USC 1481.
“Because it just seems to me if you basically declare yourself to be an enemy of the United States you’re no longer entitled to the rights of citizenship,” he said.
While civil liberties groups are rightfully crying “unconstitutional” and pointing to the bill’s disregard for due process, Lieberman’s remarks reveal a more serious, and dangerous, assumption: That the rights of Americans are dependent on their status as citizens and therefore, may be taken away.
Deceased controversial comedian George Carlin is rolling over in his grave:
“Rights aren’t rights if someone can take them away, they’re privileges. That’s all we’ve ever had in this country is a bill of temporary privileges.”
But the U.S. Constitution wasn’t meant to protect “temporary privileges” — it was meant to recognize already existing human rights. Having these rights declared in the first ten amendments of a document doesn’t make them valid.
Actually, the Bill of Rights doesn’t even bother differentiating between citizens and non-citizens. Like the freedoms of expression and religious conviction, justice is not some privilege to be revoked. It is an inherent right — one that suspected terrorists own.