[THS] Pentagon Quietly Explores De-Citizenship of US Citizen Terrorists
psalience at fastmail.fm
Tue Feb 23 13:49:00 CET 2010
[Yoo need "sharp legal minds" indeed]
Pentagon Quietly Explores De-Citizenship of US Citizen Terrorists
By Steve Clemons
February 22. 2010 "TPM" -- February 10, 2010 - At the highest levels of the US
military, a quiet discussion is going on about putting in place a legal framework that
would permit the US government to strip American citizenship from terrorists.
The case of Las Cruces, New Mexico born al Qaeda commander Anwar al-Aulaqi, who
has been a key organizer and recruiter for the terrorist organization in Yemen is the
primary driver of this exploration of possibly modifying US law to allow "de-
As the Washington Post's Dana Priest recently revealed, al-Alaqi was added recently
to a short list of other Americans for whom there are kill orders in place.
A senior Member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has told me that to
his knowledge, there has been no serious discussion in the Committee of stripping US
citizenship from terrorists, but a senior Pentagon official has confirmed that some in
the military are exploring the upsides and downsides of such a more routenized
mechanism for stripping citizenship.
A national security attorney who serves in an advisory capacity to President Obama
has reported to me that there is no legal way for the US military or the government
to strip citizenship from Americans.
But Eugene Volokh, exploring in a Salon article the case of American gone al Qaeda
adventurer John Walker, writes in 2001 that "8 U.S.C. § 1481 : US Code - Section
1481" may provide such a mechanism.
As Volokh then wrote pondering whether a terrorist could be stripped of his US
Maybe. A federal statute says that a citizen loses his citizenship by "serving in the
armed forces of a foreign state if such armed forces are engaged in hostilities against
the United States" but only if he does so "with the intention of relinquishing United
This topic can be more ably discussed by sharp legal minds like Jeffrey Toobin,
Jeffrey Rosen and Glenn Greenwald -- but it seems to me that establishing a
regularized legal framework specifying that alleged terrorists be stripped of US
citizenship so that the military can deal with those de-nationed individuals differently
reminds me of the kind of legal gray area that Cheney national security adviser David
Addington loved to create.
By posting this question, I trust that others will review other cases and the legal
background of this question of stripping citizenship in times of war -- and weigh in.
The Pentagon's top stars are mulling over this issue now and just beginning to probe
receptevity in the administration and among some in Congress.
-- Steve Clemons publishes the popular political blog, The Washington Note. Clemons
can be followed on Twitter @SCClemons
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