What Would Joe Lieberman's Terrorist Expatriation Act Accomplish?


Does Joe Lieberman's Terrorist Expatriation Act accomplish anything other than positioning him to the right of Glenn Beck and John Boehner? In the unlikely event that Lieberman succeeds in adding "material support" for terrorism to the list of actions that can result in loss of citizenship, the practical consequences would depend on how the courts read the intent requirement of the law that Lieberman wants to amend.

In the 1967 case Afroyim v. Rusk, the Supreme Court ruled that Congress has no authority to revoke an American's citizenship unless he voluntarily renounces it. Thirteen years later, in Vance v. Terrazas, the Court said that requirement is not satisfied simply by showing that someone voluntarily committed one of the "expatriating acts" listed in the Immigration and Nationality Act (which include treason, taking an oath of allegiance to a foreign state, and serving in the armed forces of a hostile country). The government also has to provide evidence that he thereby intended to renounce his citizenship—a requirement that Congress later added to the law. At the same time, the Court upheld the "preponderance of evidence" standard specified by Congress: If the State Department decides to take away someone's citizenship based on an expatriating act and he challenges that decision in court, the government must show it's more likely than not that he 1) voluntarily committed the act 2) "with the intention of relinquishing United States nationality."

But this adversarial process would make no sense if the appellant could win simply by disavowing any such intent. In Vance the Court made it clear that the government could prove the "assent" of someone without his consent (emphasis added): "It is difficult to understand that 'assent' to loss of citizenship would mean anything less than an intent to relinquish citizenship, whether the intent is expressed in words or is found as a fair inference from proved conduct." It's not clear exactly what that would mean in the context of "material support" for terrorism, a very broad category of behavior that encompasses pure speech advocating lawful activity. But presumably the government would argue that the nature of the alleged act suggested an intent to give up citizenship.

Writing in The Washington Post, Georgetown University law professor David Cole notes the First Amendment implications of the "material support" statute, a law "so broad that it makes it a crime to file an amicus brief in the Supreme Court, to lobby Congress, to teach human rights or to write an op-ed piece, so long as it is done with or for a designated group." But he argues that proving an "intention of relinquishing United States nationality" would be an insurmountable barrier in practice. "Only those who voluntarily, knowingly and intentionally renounce their citizenship will lose it," he says.

Cole also suggests that taking away an American's citizenship based on alleged ties to terrorism would not provide the end run around due process that Lieberman wants. While the law authorizing military tribunals for terrorism suspects applies only to noncitizens, he says, there is no constitutional basis for that distinction. "There is no legitimate justification for selectively subjecting noncitizens to substandard criminal process," Cole writes. "Citizen terrorists pose as much a threat as do noncitizen terrorists, and both are guaranteed the same constitutional rights in the criminal process, military or otherwise."

NEXT: Paul Ryan: Radical or Sellout?

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  1. Lieberman’s Act would accomplish what Joe is always trying to accomplish: being the worst fucking combination of TEAM RED TEAM BLUE imaginable. He is such a fucking piece of shit.

    1. Joe Lieberman is the anti-libertarian.
      I seem to recall some loser picking him for the VP slot.

  2. For all the bitching about Sarah Palin, never forget the Dems (and some Reason editors/contributors) almost put both Joe Lieberman AND John Edwards a heartbeat away from the Presidency

  3. If only Joe can fix things so that anyone who’s ever gotten an e-mail invite to a tea-party rally but did not attend, can be labeled a “terrorist”…

    1. That would make my job a LOT easier.

      1. Mine, too!

        1. Mine, too!!! BWUAHAHAAHAAHA!

  4. taking an oath of allegiance to a foreign state

    Does kowtowing to AIPAC count?

  5. The problem with the justification of “terrorists are not common criminals, but engaged in acts of war” for laws like this, as well as less absurd and plainly illegal enhanced methods for dealing with terrorism is the tendency of governments to label just about anyone they don’t like as a terrorist. To make terrorism a special exception to the normal legal process is a big mistake. Terrorism, one must remember is a tactic, not an ideology or a specific group. And committing acts of terrorism is not, by itself, an act of war.

  6. “There is no legitimate justification for selectively subjecting noncitizens to substandard criminal process,”


    B-b-but teh Scary BadGuyzes!

  7. I’m tougher than Dicky C., and I’m gonna’ prove it!

  8. “Only those who voluntarily, knowingly and intentionally renounce their citizenship will lose it,” he says.

    I think that’s kind of the point.

  9. Ha. They’re edging closer and closer to the day when they just come out and admit that the Constitution is null and void, something that intelligent people have already figured out.

  10. You’re such a spaz, Jake. Tim illustrates a post on rating agencies with a picture of Kate Moss climbing out of a car in a short skirt, and you illustrate a post on Joe Lieberman with a picture of, Joe Leiberman.

    1. Shouldn’t you be off somewhere writing another Stephen King novel?

  11. One of the best arguments I have heard regarding this;

    To a conservative: “Do you really want Hillary Clinton deciding who keeps/loses thier citizenship?”

    To a liberal: “Do you really want Condaleeza Rice…”

    These things always sound like such a better idea when it is your person calling the shots.

    1. Hence, the Iron Law:

      Me today, you tomorrow.

  12. What tyrant didn’t have their way with people who were deemed enemy of the state?

  13. A little while ago I actually heard a “strategist” on MSNBC say with a straight face that Americans take an oath to protect the Constitution (Did you take one? I don’t think I ever did) and if you try to blow people up, you should automatically forfeit your citizenship and all rights associated with it.

    1. It’s all a ploy to start ridding suspected domestic terrorists of their rights. You know. Those angry Right Wing Extremests that the SLPC has been warning us about for decades yet which have yet to actually live up to the hype.

    2. ed|5.10.10 @ 4:23PM|#

      A little while ago I actually heard a “strategist” on MSNBC say with a straight face that Americans take an oath to protect the Constitution (Did you take one? I don’t think I ever did)

      Err… Yeah, actually, I did. I took it seriously then, and I still do.

  14. Whoops. I was taking a dump when I accidentally shit on my hands and my pee-pee got hard and it pissed right between the space between the lid and the bowl and my pants have piss all over them.

    1. Shit and Pee-Pee Pants Au Gratin

      Pee Pee Pants

      Cook shit and pee-pee pants in 450-degree pre-heated oven with potatoes.
      Remove from oven in 30 minutes and eat shit and pants and potatoes.

      1. Wow Dan. For once, you provide useful information.

    2. You wouldn’t get shit all over your hands if you weren’t trying to dig it out of your ass. Yeah, I know – you can’t seem to go otherwise. You should eat more fiber…lots more fiber.

  15. The existing federal statute, 8 U.S.C. ? 1481, identifies seven categories of acts for which U.S. citizens lose their citizenship if they voluntarily perform one of those acts “with the intention of relinquishing United States nationality.” The list includes acts such as:

    ? Serving in the armed forces of a “foreign state” if such armed forces are engaged in hostilities against the United States;
    ? Formally renouncing nationality whenever the United States is in a state of war; or
    ? Committing treason against the United States.

    The Terrorist Expatriation Act would simply add another category to the list of acts for which a U.S. national would lose his nationality, namely: providing material support or resources to a Foreign Terrorist Organization, as designated by the Secretary of State, or actively engaging in hostilities against the United States or its allies.

    All constitutional protections applied to the present statute, including due process, would apply to the amendment if passed.

  16. For natural born citizens, at least, I do not think that the government should have the power at all to revoke citizenship under any circumstances. One should have to voluntarily renounce it.

  17. Guess who is co-sponsoring this legislation? None other than Scott Brown. Yeah, the same guy who was going to stop obamacare and be an all around defender of liberty. So many here chided those of us for telling the truth about this guy and for not understanding the bigger picture-you know, that piece of brilliance which holds that the more astute, sophisticated supporters of liberty understand that they must choose between the lesser of two statist evils in order for freedom to flourish.

    1. Scott Brown has also supported treating US Citizens suspected of terroism as enemy combatants:

      (listen to the talk radio clip)

      I guess this legislation would make that even easier.

  18. As an ex-US-citizen, stateless person, and confessed terrorist, I resemble this article.

  19. Joe Lieberman


  20. Lieberman’s proposal has so many things wrong with it that I can’t possible find the time and space to list them all … suffice it to say, let’s hope that if the current law is amdened in any way that the USSC acts quickly to squash it as they rightly should, and further that their ruling I hope, would be a strong 9-0 ruling.

    ~ Dan Francis (Watertown, NY)

  21. That’s it Joe!

    TIme for you, Hillary and the Nancy and the rest of the Israel lobby to grab a life raft for Israel. This Terrorist Expatriation Act is the most unconstitutional concept!! If you are all for giving this morally corrupt, financially bankrupt, war criminal ridden government, legal cover to expatriate and even assassinate it’s own citizens on a whim, You have no business protecting OUR Constitution or OUR countries citizens.

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