posted on Jun, 12 2003 @ 10:49 PM
A basic principle of American democracy is that members of government serve at the behest of the citizenry, and not vice-versa. The people, being
sovereign, can use their votes to "throw the bastards out," even though the government has no reciprocal power to jettison disfavored citizens.
Our leadership may distrust or despise certain people, but it cannot strip them of their citizenship involuntarily. Murderers, child molesters, and
tax evaders are subject to criminal punishment, not denationalization.
Yet with the Domestic Security Enhancement Act, informally known as Patriot II, this basic rule is under attack. The draft legislation, a proposed
sequel to the 2001 USA Patriot Act drafted by the Justice Department, was recently made public after being leaked to the Center for Public Integrity.
As commentators David Cole, Nat Hentoff, and Anita Ramasastry have suggested, the bill would go well beyond its predecessor in threatening essential
Among Patriot II's most worrying provisions are those affecting citizenship. Section 501 of the bill, deceptively titled "Expatriation of
Terrorists," would allow the presumptive denationalization of American citizens who support the activities of organizations that the executive branch
has deemed "terrorist." While it is already illegal to provide material support to such groups, even for their lawful activities, such support is
grounds only for criminal prosecution, not for the loss of citizenship.
By permitting denationalization as a punishment for illegal conduct, the Patriot II bill attempts to push the legal rules backward to a time that
Ashcroft and his ilk no doubt remember fondly: the McCarthy era.