ou remember that loathsome, constitutionally questionable provision of the recently passed National Defense Authorization Act that allows the U.S. military to indefinitely detain even American citizens only suspected of terrorist and other activities, right? Now comes its evil twin, the Enemy Expatriation Act, or H.R. 3166, which would strip you of your citizenship as well.
According to a summary of the bill, the act would amend “the Immigration and Nationality Act to include engaging in or purposefully and materially supporting hostilities against the United States to the list of acts for which U.S. nationals would lose their nationality. Further, the bill defines hostilities as any conflict subject to the laws of war.”
Like the language of the NDAA, the language of H.R. 3166 sounds innocuous, but when put together, the two pieces of legislation literally give the government the right to come into your home, arrest you on suspicion of illegal activity, and then, as a final act of humiliation, strip you of your citizenship and/or hold you indefinitely.
Does that sound like the America our founders fought – and died – for? Or the tens of millions of Americans since? Not hardly, and as word of this insidious legislation spreads, it is eliciting the strongest of negative responses.
“Never before in our lifetime has the government come so close to fully transforming into a dictatorship as it has now. The new defense bill, if coupled with this expatriation bill, makes me shudder at the thought of what else is hiding beneath our soon-to-be king’s well-guarded sleeves,” writes Rebecca DiFede, a contributing editor to Americans for Limited Government.
Granted, the term “dictator” may be a little extreme, since neither of these pieces of legislation put the enforcement onus strictly on the president. Instead, they spread responsibility for carrying out the bill provisions across several agencies – the Defense Department, Justice Department and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, as well as the Department of Homeland Security.
But building in this “plausible deniability” for the president is smoke and mirrors. The fact is, both of these bills represent an incredible encroachment on our constitutional liberties. Wait, you say. Didn’t President Obama issue a signing statement when he inked the NDAA?
Sure he did. After signing the NDAA, he released a statment that said, “Moving forward, my administration will interpret and implement the provisions described below in a manner that best preserves the flexibility on which our safety depends and upholds the values on which this country was founded.”
While that sounds reassuring, you’ll notice that what the president did not say was that he would never allow the U.S. military to detain an American citizen indefinitely. And really, if that were his intent, isn’t that what he should have said?
There is this as well. Remember that Obama personally authorized the assassination of an American citizen only suspected of conducting terrorist activities against the United States. Quite a turnaround for a man who once publicly advocated against detaining real terrorists at Guantanamo Bay. And not surprisingly, he has an echo chamber: his own administration lawyers agree with him. Go figure.
The Constitution, however, is much less ambiguous on this issue. The Fourth Amendment clearly says “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.” The Fifth Amendment, meanwhile, goes further, saying “no person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”
The president, his lawyers and everyone else who is taking his side for purely political reasons are essentially saying the fact that the nation is at war changes the rules, but that’s the same argument President Franlin Delano Roosevelt used to intern tens of thousands of Japanese-Americans during World War II. Such thinking was flawed then, history revealed – and it’s flawed now.
If war, or the threat of war, or the rumor of war, negates the Constitution for American citizens, what exactly is it we are fighting to preserve?