Guilt and dissociation

Old GloryMore details are emerging about what Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) will actually propose in his push to allow the stripping of citizenship from disloyal Americans. His proposal will be an update of current US law to address the needs of this new war.

Title 8, Chapter 12, Subchapter III, Part III, §1481 of the US Code currently states that any US citizen can lose their nationality by actively working against the US in certain ways. Right now you’d have to be naturalized in a foreign state, declare allegiance to a foreign state, serve in the armed services of a foreign state in conflict with the US, renounce your nationality, or commit treason against the United States. This is clearly not strict enough in this time of non-state enemies.

What Sen. Lieberman will propose is the addition of one more form of disloyalty: involvement with a foreign terror organization. This closes a giant loophole in the current law. The State Department maintains a list of terror organizations, and would also be the organization tasked with determining if someone is ‘involved’ with one of these organizations, whatever that means. And although the burden is on the State Department  to show that the suspect is actually ‘involved’ with a terror organization, the burden of proof is only the ‘preponderance’ of the evidence. You only have to be more guilty than not. So don’t worry, it’s unlikely that there’ll be many people found ‘not guilty’ of probably being ‘involved’ with an organization that the State Department considers a terrorist organization.

The real question is how this will affect how we prosecute the war on terror. As far as I can tell, the only real difference is that citizens are required to be given civil trials and normal civil rights, while non-citizens may be given military tribunals and not informed of their civil rights (think Miranda-optional). And perhaps tortured interrogated in an enhanced way.

But people forget that this power essentially exists already. The President can declare anyone an ‘enemy combatant’ and then the rules are off. President Obama has said that he has sworn off declaring people enemy combatants, but that doesn’t keep the next President from doing it. Or Obama, really. It wouldn’t be the first time he’s flip-flopped.

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