Friday, May 7, 2010

Lieberman Calls For Selective Revocation Of Citizenship And Due Process

Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) is one of the lawmakers who opposed the reading of Miranda rights to Faisal Shahzad, the suspect in the attempted Times Square car bombing, despite the fact that the suspect reportedly admitted his role and is talking to authorities. Lieberman would go further, though, explains a New York Times editorial, "Fear Itself":

To get around the inconvenient fact that Mr. Shahzad is a citizen, Mr. Lieberman is even calling for a law allowing Americans accused (not convicted) of unspecified crimes to be stripped of their citizenship and retroactively deprived of due process under the law.

This is not Mr. Lieberman’s first foray into this dark territory. He is 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.

A comparison between the track record of Federal as opposed to military courts makes it clear that we need not abandon the former:

There is no evidence that vital intelligence has been lost, or a terrorist attack allowed to happen, because a suspect was questioned lawfully. The men who interrogated top-ranking terrorist suspects following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks said the prisoners gave up their valuable knowledge before being subjected to waterboarding and other illegal acts.

Federal courts have convicted hundreds of people on terrorism-related charges since 2001. The tribunals have obtained one guilty plea from a prisoner who may not have done anything and was subsequently released.

Senators McCain and Lieberman say military trials will show strength. Abandoning democratic institutions in the face of terrorism is an act of surrender. It will not make this country safer. It will make it more vulnerable.

The country would also be better off if McCain and Lieberman would stop the tough-guy grandstanding and show that they believe in our democratic legal system. Even House Republican leader John Boehner doubted the viability of Lieberman's proposal, stating, "If they're a U.S. citizen, until they're convicted of some crime, I don't know how you would attempt to take their citizenship away. It would be pretty difficult under the U.S. Constitution." Senator Charles Schumer, originally a supporter of Lieberman's bill, now also doubts that it is constitutional and asserts, "There are much better ways of obtaining information from terrorists."

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