Note: this piece ran earlier today at The Rumpus.
Joe Lieberman is introducing something he calls the Terrorist Expatriation Act--TEA Act for short, though the redundancy seems lost on them--which would make it possible for the State Department to strip the citizenship from anyone they determine is "involved with terrorist activities."
Lieberman claims that he's simply trying to update existing law. Current law makes it possible for a citizen to be stripped of their citizenship if the state can prove that the citizen intended to revoke it. One way of doing that is by joining the armed forces of a state engaged in hostilities with the US. Lieberman's legislation would expand that to include "providing material support or resources to a Foreign Terrorist Organization, as designated by the Secretary of State." So why is this such a big deal?
It wouldn't change the action that got the undershorts of Lieberman and many others all twisted up, namely, the Mirandizing of Faisal Shahzad. Due process rights extend to everyone arrested in the US, citizen or not. You'd think a US Senator would know this. What this legislation would allow, however, is for people like Shahzad to be tried by military tribunals instead of civilian courts, at the discretion of the State Department, and that's what he's really after.
It's hard to come to any conclusion other than that Joe Lieberman likes the trappings of democracy, but not the hard work of it. Any chance he gets, he's in favor of trading trials for tribunals and saying that law enforcement isn't up to the task of convicting and punishing those who would use terrorist tactics as a way of disrupting our day-to-day lives. Lieberman is, as today's NY Times Editorial pointed out, "co-author with Mr. McCain of a bill that would require that anyone arrested on any terrorism-related charge, including American citizens, be declared an enemy combatant and tried in a military court."
Lieberman, and those who side with him including Senator John McCain and Representative Peter King, are cowards. (Peter King is a hypocrite too, of incredible proportions, but that's another story.) The Framers of the Constitution included certain protections because they had seen just how much an unchecked state could abuse those under its power. They could have limited due process rights to citizens only, but they didn't. They took the more difficult path because they felt it was necessary to the existence of a free and open government (even if that government was only free and open to white male landowners at the time).
Here's what I think really puts Lieberman's position in perspective, though. Who do you think said the following about Shahzad?
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.Some ACLU lawyer? Some hippie law professor from Terrorist Coddlers University? Some poet with no idea how the real world works? Nope. Glenn Beck. When the rodeo clown is making more sense than you are, you need to seriously reconsider what you're doing.