Saturday, May 8, 2010

Experts dismiss Lieberman terror bill

Joe Lieberman thinks revoking citizenship and sending terror suspects to Guantanamo is the best way to avoid the whole "Miranda" rights controversy, but legal scholars and national security experts say his proposal would make little difference in the war on terror.

On top of that, congressional leaders ranging from Speaker Nancy Pelosi to House Minority Leader John Boehner are skeptical of Lieberman's citizenship-stripping bill, making it clear that this may get more air time on cable TV than in a congressional committee room.

"The bottom line here is that it's constitutional but ultimately meaningless," said Peter Spiro, a law professor at Temple University who specializes in citizenship and international law.

"Not only is the Lieberman bill legally suspect, it's totally unnecessary," said Andy Johnson, who directs the national security project at the centrist think tank Third Way.

The proposal has splintered politicians from both parties. Joining Lieberman, an independent, as backers were Republican Rep. Charlie Dent and Democratic Rep. Jason Altmire, along with Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.).

Lieberman's bill — a response to the arrest of Times Square bombing suspect Faisal Shahzad — would revoke the citizenship of anyone who affiliates with a foreign terrorist organization.

But Boehner is skeptical: "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," Boehner said Thursday.

Pelosi likes the "spirit" of the law but is concerned about the "trigger" for revoking citizenship. She also pointed out that in the 1940s, when the citizenship law was written, the U.S. was also imprisoning thousands of Japanese in internment camps.

Even Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a kindred spirit with Lieberman on detainee issues, is skeptical because Lieberman's bill because it would prevent the government from bringing treason charges against U.S. citizens who become terrorists.

Anyone convicted of treason already loses their U.S. citizenship-under the law Lieberman is trying to amend.

"If you strip people of their citizenship, do you lose the ability to prosecute them for treason?" Graham said. "Someone like him [Shahzad] could never get the death penalty unless they were tried with treason."

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