Lieberman to Propose Citizenship-Stripping Law

Greg Sargent at the Washington Post is reporting that Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) will be proposing a new law that could potentially strip Americans of their citizenship if they’re involved with foreign terrorist organizations. The limited details revealed today are enough to send a chill down the spine of civil libertarians around the country. I will be discussing this issue tonight on Rachel Maddow’s show.

The law reportedly would allow the State Department to treat citizenship like an administrative matter — deciding whether you have associated with terrorist organizations. Agency procedures are widely condemned for their lack of due process protections and the heavy deference given to agency decision-making. We have seen abuses of this system in the designation of organizations under a similar process.

To his credit, Schumer has come out against Lieberman’s proposal, again as reported by Sargant. He reports that Schumer initially indicated that he might support the law. However, Schumer’s staff insists that he was approached briefly in the hall on the subject but that he could not support such a proposal.

While the burden would be on the State Department and you would have access to court review, the agency process could make it difficult to contest such findings — particularly with the use of secret evidence (and barring the use of evidence by the defendant on national security grounds).

Stripping citizens of their citizenship could also create stateless persons — a problem in international law. Moreover, this process could occur at the same time that a person is fighting criminal charges — adding to the practical and financial burden.

Lieberman will reportedly hold a presser on Thursday.

For the full story, click here.

51 thoughts on “Lieberman to Propose Citizenship-Stripping Law

  1. I was wondering why I felt a chill… How long before Connecticut can vote this jackass out of office?

  2. AY,

    I can’t even muster that. Lieberman doesn’t surprise me any more, he just depresses me…

  3. Sigh. I take absolutely no responsibility for Ol’ Droopy Dog – I worked really hard for the Lamont campaign and I must question the sanity of my fellow Nutmeggers who voted for Droopy.

    I truly don’t know what powers I have in me that prohibits me, while walking my dog on Saturday mornings, from smacking him upside his empty melon as he walks by me on his way to temple.

    He really, really quite draining on my psyche.

  4. I assume that Sen. Lieberman would also grant authority to the appropriate agencies to compile the list of “terrorist organizations.” I used to believe that this gentleman was at least capable of rational thought. I will no longer harbor that delusion.

  5. AY,
    Never a dull or quiet moment in my world. well, almost never, I have decided to take one of those for myself tonight, although that is only because I’ve had about all I can take of my allergy symptoms for the week. Hence….night off for me:)

  6. vlf2112,

    Next time you see him could you tell him that he should be ashamed of himself for me.

  7. Hello Prof. Turley, You are remarkably even-toned in your criticism of Lieberman’s completely asinine and unconstitutional proposal. The goal of Lieberman’s proposal is clearly not to make our country safer, but to make himself the center of attention. I think you would have to turn it up about 12 notches before you would be giving this the reaction it deserves.

  8. The oath taken by U.S. Senators:

    “I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”


    U.S. Supreme Court
    Schneider v. Rusk, 377 U.S. 163 (1964)


    Views of the Justices have varied when it comes to the problem of expatriation.

    There is one view that the power of Congress to take away citizenship for activities of the citizen is nonexistent absent expatriation by the voluntary renunciation of nationality and allegiance. See Perez v. Brownell, 356 U. S. 44, 356 U. S. 79 (dissenting opinion of JUSTICES BLACK and DOUGLAS); Trop v. Dulles, 356 U. S. 86 (opinion by CHIEF JUSTICE WARREN). That view has not yet commanded a majority of the entire Court. Hence, we are faced with the issue presented and decided in Perez v. Brownell, supra, i.e., whether the present Act violates due process. That, in turn, comes to the question put in the following words in Perez:

    “Is the means, withdrawal of citizenship, reasonably calculated to effect the end that is within the power of Congress to achieve, the avoidance of embarrassment in the conduct of our foreign relations . . . ?”

    356 U.S. at 356 U. S. 60.

    In that case, where an American citizen voted in a foreign election, the answer was in the affirmative. In the present case, the question is whether the same answer should be given merely because the naturalized citizen lived in her former homeland continuously for three years. We think not.

    Speaking of the provision in the Nationality Act of 1940, which was the predecessor of § 352(a)(1), Chairman Dickstein of the House said that the bill would “relieve this country of the responsibility of those who reside in foreign lands and only claim citizenship when it serves their purpose.” 86 Cong.Rec. 11944. And the Senate Report on the 1940 bill stated:

    “These provisions for loss of nationality by residence abroad would greatly lessen the task of the United States in protecting through the Department of State nominal citizens of this country who are abroad but whose real interests, as shown by the conditions of their foreign stay, are not in this country.”

    S.Rep. No. 2150, 76th Cong., 3d Sess., p. 4.

    As stated by Judge Fahy, dissenting below, such legislation, touching as it does on the “most precious right” of citizenship (Kennedy v. Mendoza-Martinez, 372 U.S. at 372 U. S. 159), would have to be justified under the foreign relations power

    “by some more urgent public necessity than substituting administrative convenience for the individual right of which the citizen is deprived.”

    In Kennedy v. Mendoza-Martinez, supra, a divided Court held that it was beyond the power of Congress to deprive an American of his citizenship automatically and without any prior judicial or administrative proceedings because he left the United States in time of war to evade or avoid training or service in the Armed Forces. The Court held that it was an unconstitutional use of
    congressional power because it took away citizenship as punishment for the offense of remaining outside the country to avoid military service without, at the same time, affording him the procedural safeguards granted by the Fifth and Sixth Amendments. Yet even the dissenters, who felt that flight or absence to evade the duty of helping to defend the country in time of war amounted to manifest nonallegiance, made a reservation. JUSTICE STEWART stated:

    “Previous decisions have suggested that congressional exercise of the power to expatriate may be subject to a further constitutional restriction — a limitation upon the kind of activity which may be made the basis of denationalization. Withdrawal of citizenship is a drastic measure. Moreover, the power to expatriate endows government with authority to define and to limit the society which it represents and to which it is responsible.”

    “This Court has never held that Congress’ power to expatriate may be used unsparingly in every area in which it has general power to act. Our previous decisions upholding involuntary denationalization all involved conduct inconsistent with undiluted allegiance to this country.”

    This statute proceeds on the impermissible assumption that naturalized citizens as a class are less reliable, and bear less allegiance to this country than do the native born. This is an assumption that is impossible for us to make. Moreover, while the Fifth Amendment contains no equal protection clause, it does forbid discrimination that is “so unjustifiable as to be violative of due process.” Bolling v. Sharpe, 347 U. S. 497, 347 U. S. 499. A native-born citizen is free to reside abroad indefinitely without suffering loss of citizenship. The discrimination aimed at naturalized citizens drastically limits their rights to live and work abroad in a way that other citizens may. It creates indeed a second-class citizenship. Living abroad, whether the citizen be naturalized or native born, is no badge of lack of allegiance, and in no way evidences a voluntary renunciation of nationality and allegiance. It may indeed be compelled by family, business, or other legitimate reasons.


  10. Afroyim v. Rusk, 387 U.S. 253 (1967)


    Petitioner, of Polish birth, became a naturalized American citizen in 1926. He went to Israel in 1950, and in 1951 voted in an Israeli legislative election. The State Department subsequently refused to renew his passport, maintaining that petitioner had lost his citizenship by virtue of § 401(e) of the Nationality Act of 1940 which provides that a United States citizen shall “lose” his citizenship if he votes in a foreign political election. Petitioner then brought this declaratory judgment action alleging the unconstitutionality of § 401(e). On the basis of Perez v. Brownell, 356 U. S. 44, the District Court and Court of Appeals held that Congress, under its implied power to regulate foreign affairs, can strip an American citizen of his citizenship.

    Held: Congress has no power under the Constitution to divest a person of his United States citizenship absent his voluntary renunciation thereof. Perez v. Brownell, supra, overruled. Pp. 387 U. S. 256-268.

    (a) Congress has no express power under the Constitution to strip a person of citizenship, and no such power can be sustained as an implied attribute of sovereignty, as was recognized by Congress before the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment, and a mature and well considered dictum in @ 22 U. S. 827, is to the same effect. Pp. 387 U. S. 257-261.

    (b) The Fourteenth Amendment’s provision that “All persons born or naturalized in the United States . . . are citizens of the United States . . .” completely controls the status of citizenship, and prevents the cancellation of petitioner’s citizenship. Pp. 387 U. S. 262-268.

    361 F.2d 102, reversed.

  11. it would seem that this is a bad idea in whole and in part. But to interject contention and expand debate:

    the case Nal cited was about a man voting in an election in Israel not about someone planting bombs in the middle of large metropolitan areas. What about people who are here and have been here for years with the express purpose of doing harm to the US? If they are naturalized citizens didn’t they become citizens under false pretenses? Shouldn’t/wouldn’t that nullify their claim to citizenship?

    How can you credibly take an oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic when you are the enemy? You also swear to denounce fealty to a foreign leader which you clearly haven’t.

    You certainly cant do this to natural born citizens but isn’t there a case for doing this to naturalized citizens?

  12. Byron,

    In this case it appears that the individual in question was radicalized AFTER becoming a naturalized citizen. Furthermore, even in the scenario you posit, you would need the power to look into people’s hearts to enforce it. If someone commits an act of terrorism (or conspires to commit such an act) the should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law via the US justice system. Stripping someone of their citizenship absent such an act seems un-American to me.

  13. Byron:

    You certainly cant do this to natural born citizens but isn’t there a case for doing this to naturalized citizens?

    That’s were the Equal Protection clause would kick in.

  14. Methinks the erstwhile Senator from Israel should shut his hawk pie hole unless he is willing to sacrifice his dual citizenship to retain his office. Hard to take direction on what constitutes an American from a man who can’t make up his mind on his own citizenship.

  15. Slarti:

    there are people here now who came with the intention of doing harm to our country. I don’t need to look into their hearts to know what evil lurks, not being the Shadow and all.

  16. there are people here now who came with the intention of doing harm.

    and they’re not even citizens yet, they just come across the border when ever they want.

  17. Former Federal Nothing,

    I think you’re making a common statistical error (there are a lot of terrible ideas out there that Lieberman isn’t responsible for). The correct statement would be something like: ‘When I hear an idea originated with Joe Lieberman there’s about a 99.999999999999999999999999999% chance that it’s terrible’.

  18. So who gets to decide what a foreign terrorist organization is and given that that news doesn’t usually trickle down to the general populace until AFTER a major scandal/affront/attack/whatever… the heck will anyone know what about who and when????

    This Country has lost it’s balance for sure…it is looking more and more like fascist Europe and all that that led to. Please tell me I am wrong….

  19. The poster positively asserting the continued feline nature of Woosty (who does not appear to belong to any terrorist organizations foreign or domestic – but we’re still keeping an eye on him…),

    I’m okay with the law as long as I’m the one who gets to decide what a terrorist organization is (I’d start with any business who address is registered to the office building in the Cayman Islands that has almost 20,000 tenants (or at least their mailing addresses – I would strip these corporate persons of their citizenship and their right to do business in the US).

  20. Byron,

    I’d just keep throwing out corporations until they begged to be allowed to give up their status as ‘persons’. Next on the list would be those that are ‘too big to fail’…

  21. Unfortunately, our laws are just now starting to catch up with reality. Some fifty years ago it would not have been imagined that groups like Al Queda could exist. If a citizen would have join the army of a foreign state, few would question the propriety of expatriation. Today, Al Queda is, in essence, a foreign state.

    Read our laws below, but replace the words foreign state with Al Queda.

    (CT:CON-285; 03-06-2009)
    a. INA 349(a)(2) (8 U.S.C. 1481(a)(2)) provides:
    “(a) A person who is a national of the United States whether by
    birth or naturalization, shall lose his nationality by voluntarily performing any of the following acts with the intention of relinquishing United States nationality:

    (2) Taking an oath or making an affirmation or other formal
    declaration of allegiance to a foreign state or a political subdivision thereof, after having attained the age of eighteen years.”

    b. Section 401(b) of the Nationality Act of 1940 (54 Statutes at Large 1169; old 8 U.S.C. 801) provided:
    “A person who is a national of the United States, whether by birth or naturalization, shall lose his nationality by:

    (b) Taking an oath or making an affirmation or other formal
    declaration of allegiance to a foreign state.”

    c. Section 2 of the Act of March 2, 1907 (34 Statutes at Large 1228), provided: That any American citizen shall be deemed to have expatriated himself … when he has taken an oath of allegiance to any foreign state. And provided that no American citizen shall be allowed to expatriate himself when this country is at war.”

    d. An oath of allegiance is a statement affirming one’s loyalty to a foreign state. Such a statement may be oral or in writing; it does not have to be under oath although in many instances it is; and it may be a simple statement, or it may be contained in a larger document, of which the oath is only one part. The taking of such an oath is only an expatriating act if it is taken voluntarily after the age of 18 with the intention of
    relinquishing one’s citizenship.

    e. The statement of allegiance need not be in any particular form. It may be oral or written. Its words and meaning must express actual allegiance or fidelity to the foreign state or subdivision or to its government, sovereign, constitution, prince, or similar concepts. However, a simple pledge to carry out the duties of a certain job (i.e., sometimes referred to
    as an oath of office), or similar statement, even though subscribed under oath, is not potentially expatriating.

    f. An oath of allegiance to a foreign state is often taken in connection with naturalization, service in the armed forces of a foreign state, or some other act that is also, in itself, potentially expatriating. A finding of loss of nationality, if made, generally results from the principal act, for example, military service, rather than the oath.

    g. An oath or affirmation of allegiance to another state taken while in the United States cannot result in loss of U.S. citizenship until the person establishes a foreign residence. INA 351 (8 U.S.C. 1483) provides that, except as provided in paragraphs (6) and (7) of INA 349(a), no national of the United States can lose United States nationality while within the
    United States or any of its outlying possessions, but loss of nationality shall result from the performance within the United States of any of the acts or the fulfillment of any of the conditions specified in this chapter of the INA if and when the national thereafter takes up a residence outside the United States and its outlying possessions.

  22. Didn’t the Nazis pass a law in 1933 to strip Jewish Polish immigrants of their German citizenship?

    That Sen. Joe Lieberman, of all people, would put forth an idea so similar in nature creates a discordance that I believe I can safely call ironic.

  23. Lieberman’s proposal is blatantly unconstitutional and downright scary! I can just imagine which organizations would be considered terror groups by Joe Lieberman!

  24. To follow up. I used to work for a company which was required to implement methods to prevent people on the Denied Persons List (I remember it being called the “Denied Parties List”) from using the website I worked on. One of the weirdest things about the list is that there were (are?) people and/or businesses in the United States that we were legally prohibited from dealing with.

  25. I quickly googled some Lieberman quotes, see if he ever terrorised anyone, and my my, look what I found:

    “Every day Saddam remains in power with chemical weapons, biological weapons, and the development of nuclear weapons is a day of danger for the United States.”

    Well, strip Lieberman and all the other chickenhawk warmongers from their citizenship already. They’ve been very much so a terrorist organisation.

    But alas, in the end, even I must admit that, yes, Lieberman, Cheney and the others – except for Colon Powers – do have a lighter skin colour so I guess they cannot be terrorists…. says so in the Websters definition.

    These f*%ing guys….

  26. It’s pretty clear that existing law is adequate to deal with stipping naturalized (as opposed to native born) citizens of their citizenship when they commit felonies. [Lucky Luciano and all the Nazi camp guards who have been deported.] The rules for stripping naturalized citizens from citizenship are totally different from stripping citizenship from native born. The constitution bans exile as a form of punishment. By stripping native born citizens of their citizenship you are in effect exiling them.

    Maybe I missed it in prior posts, but I also thought joining a foreign army was a basis for stripping someone of their citizenship, naturalized or native born. I think that Faisal could be stripped of his naturalized citizenship under existing law. The idea that a person (naturalized or native born) could be stripped of his or her citizenship based on some terrorist list promulgated by the State Department is ludicrous and would never pass muster. Once again, this is just political grandstanding of the worst sort.

  27. Another attempt by the oligarchy to distract us from the really important issues?

    Say for instance, BP’s problems in the Gulf which could cascade into problems for all oil companies seeking to take advantage of Obama’s off-shore drilling policies?

    Lieberman’s ideas is so ludicrous, even for him, … there has to be something else going on.

  28. Blouise, I so agree….plus, the other, degradation into fascism supported by violence, here, is unfathomable…

  29. This is the last straw. Lieberman represents Israel in the united States Senate, not the US. I hope someone defeats him in next election. Can you imagine a panel who decides whether you are a terroist? Imagine he is part of the panel. Makes me shudder.

  30. Gretski 1, May 5, 2010 at 9:50 pm

    Unfortunately, our laws are just now starting to catch up with reality. Some fifty years ago it would not have been imagined that groups like Al Queda could exist.


    Baloney. Just looking at the US in the 20th century, you’ve had fears of international, non-governmental groups like “anarchists,” “the international Communist movement,” and even Catholicism that were seen as roughly similar to al Qaeda. In some cases, like the actions of anarchists in the early 20th century, there were very real “terrorist” bombings and attacks. A shocking number of Americans believe(d) that there were caches of weapons in Catholic churches and rectories and that Catholics were awaiting a message from the Pope to deploy those arsenals and overthrow the government… Crazy, but it’s similar to the fear that many Americans have today that there are bomb workshops in every mosque. There’s nothing “novel” about the situation we are dealing with in regards to al Qaeda.

    Our situation today with al Qaeda is no different than past calls for stripping people of citizenship for supporting Communism.

  31. Gretski

    “….with the intention of relinquishing United States nationality:” appears to be the operative phrase here…..

    On reviewing USA citizenship issues on the web, it appears one has to actually appear before a govt. official and declare your intention to give up citizenship.

    I agree with some posters, Lieberman represents Israel, but it’s evident the Israelis want him here to grease the skids for them. Washington DC and Conn. are probably more to his liking than any desert city……

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