Thursday, May 6, 2010

Lieberman's Citizenship Bill: An Attack on American Justice

"Those who would give up Essential Liberty
to purchase a little Temporary Safety,
Deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."
--Ben Franklin, 1759

Jumping on bandwagons in response to events rather than dealing with issues according to principle is the MO of a venal politician. We have many venal politicians in Washington and in our State Houses. The Progressive Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., has recently indicated how little he cares for the basic principles of American Justice in his proposed bill that would allow the federal government to strip a person of his US Citizenship without a trial and conviction, simply because the government believes that he has "ties" to a terrorist organization. Here is Lieberman, breaking his Oath of Office by proposing a clearly unconstitutional bill:

This bill is one those act now, think later political moves that come in response to an incident--in this case, the failed car-bomb attack in Times Square last weekend. Since the accused car-bomber, Faisel Shahzad, is a naturalized American citizen, he has certain rights that are protected by the US Constitution. When he was arrested, he was given his Miranda Warning, which is familar to every avid watcher of TV cop shows from Dragnet to CSI. The Miranda Warning is a statement from the arresting officer(s) to the detainee, that explicates his due process rights during police investigation and interrogation. We've all heard it:

"You have the right to remain silent. Anything you do say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you. Do you understand these rights as they have been read to you?"

When Shahzad was arrested a firestorm of controversy erupted over the fact that the Miranda Warning was read to him. And so Lieberman, supported by the Scott Brown of Massachusetts proposed that any US citizen who has been accused of "having ties" to a terrorist organization, should be stripped of his citizenship immediately--presumably so that the United States can interrogate him without telling him his rights.

This is wrong on principle, and pernicious as well, and since non-citizens also have certain due process rights in US Courts, it's useless as well.

On principle, the problem is that the United States Constitution guarantees that the rights of any person cannot be removed from him by the United States without due process of law:

"No person shall . . . be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law. . ." (Amendment V)

Note that it says "no person"--it applies to all human beings, not only to American citizens. However, in the Lieberman Bill, a citizen on the mere suspicion of undefined "connections" to terrorist organizations could be deprived of his citizenship and the rights and privileges thereof, without being even suspected of a crime, let alone actually tried and convicted for one. This is an outrageous violation of the liberty (at least) of American citizens. The due process rights in the Bill of Rights includes the right to presentment or indictment by a grand jury for capital and infamous crimes, the right to be free from double-jeopardy, the right to a speedy trial decided by a jury of one's peers, the right to be informed of the charges to be tried, the right to the assistance of counsel, and the right to be confronted by the accusers and witnesses. The Lieberman bill would make a person guilty by mere association, and strip him of his rights on suspicion of such, rendering punishment before he is tried and convicted.

I suppose this is the logical result of the years of trial by media which has culminated in the popular sentiment that a person who is forced to do the "perp walk" before TV cameras is guilty unless he proves himself innocent. And maybe not even then.

This proposed bill is pernicious because it gives the government unprecedented power to violate the rights of any person that it chooses not to like. How hard would it be to fabricate "ties" to some group or organization that the government decides is terrorist? Gentle Reader, if you think this is far-fetched consider the MIAC Fusion Center Report that placed ties with Ron Paul, the Libertarian Party, the use of the Gadsen Flag, and discussion of the US Constitution on par with domestic terrorism. Talking Idiots Heads on MSNBC have all but accused Talk Radio personalities such as Glenn Beck of commiting sedition ( something that should NEVER be a crime in a free country--but that's another blog).

This bill goes far beyond the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 that caused mass protest across the United States, and even beyond Woodrow Wilson's persecution of those who spoke against US involvement in WWI. Under those equally unconstitutional laws, at the least the accused had to be indicted, tried and convicted prior to being stripped of any rights. Joe Lieberman would strip a person of rights before any trial could occur, and even without suspicion of any "crime."

The passage of this law could and would lead to the worst kind of terrorism: terrorism against the people by their own government and the ongoing repression of speech and thought by the state, and the outright suppression and persecution of dissent upon those opposed to specific policies.

Joe Lieberman wants to keep you safe by stripping you of your rights. He claims that this power would be very limited in scope. I remind you that never in history has a government arrogated to itself power that it did not use. In the immortal words of Judge Andrew Napolitano: "It is not government's job to keep you safe. It is government's job to keep you free!"

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