Should Hillary Have the Power to Strip You of Your Citizenship?

If Joe Lieberman’s totalitarian plan to give the State Department authority to strip Americans of their citizenship is implemented, all those protections that citizens enjoy that are currently deprived from non-citizens would be a chimera. Since 9/11, the government has treated citizens and non-citizens differently, brutalizing both groups but being especially despotic toward those deemed non-Americans. In the habeas corpus rulings from the Supreme Court, conservative Antonin Scalia consistently argued that citizens should enjoy far stronger habeas protections than non-citizens—in his dissent for Hamdi (2004), Scalia boldly took the most civil libertarian position on the Court; in Boumediene (2008), his infamous dissent was the most anti-habeas. The grounds for his distinction were largely the issue of citizenship.

Conservatives have long been inconsistent on the concept of natural law. They say our rights come from God or human nature, but then turn around and say non-citizens do not have the same rights citizens have. But in any event, if Lieberman’s horrid idea comes to pass, the existence of citizenship will be contingent upon whether the State Department determines that a person has conspired with terrorist groups.

This is a dangerous proposal for many reasons. First, what constitutes terrorism and being an enemy of the United States has been somewhat up in the air over the last several years. Especially with the new Brown Scare aimed at the populist right, mainstream conservatives, libertarians, militia groups, violent extremists and everyone in between, we see the threat of a left-liberal administration cracking down on dissent with ever more despotic tools at its disposal. Many of us warned conservatives that every precedent against civil liberties established under the Bush years could come back to haunt us under a liberal regime, and here we see it beginning to happen.

Second, if due process is contingent upon citizenship, which can be taken away at the whim of the State Department’s designation of someone as a terrorist ally, then we have a genuine Catch-22. Without due process and habeas, how do we know if someone is a terrorist? If the government is able to eliminate due process because someone is a terrorist, without using due process to determine that he in fact is one, we have here a situation of true Alice-in-Wonderland justice.

Sadly, many left-liberals are jumping on the war on terrorism bandwagon now that a man they love, rather than one they despise, is in charge of the project. Perhaps conservatives will snap out of their love of the national-security state and see that tyranny is indeed most likely to come, as Madison is quoted as saying, in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy. Conservative Glenn Beck is taking the right position on the due process question as it relates to the alleged Times Square attempted bomber, as leftist Robert Scheer notes. We need all the dissent we can if we are to turn back this most frightening tide of totalitarianism.

Anthony Gregory is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute and author of the Independent books American Surveillance and The Power of Habeas Corpus in America.
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