Thursday, May 6, 2010

Day 126- Timothy McVeigh died an American

Dear Mr. President,

Joe Lieberman's bill aiming to revoke the citizenship of anyone who associates with foreign terror groups who attack the the US or its allies makes me more fearful of my government than I have ever been before. To begin with, Senator Lieberman has made it clear that his bill targets those joining Islamic groups above all others; Timothy McVeigh, were he alive today, would have nothing to fear from this bill. Neither would the Hutaree militia. Why should plotting to overthrow our government be more of a crime, or some one suspected of it be eligible for less legal protection, if it involves foreign terrorist organizations and not domestic ones? This bill doesn't even require proof that the citizen is planning an act of violence; affiliation is grounds enough to revoke a person's citizenship.

Our citizenship is not based upon our behavior. Child molesters, rapists, serial killers, Neo-Nazis, Klansmen, even Dick Cheney all get to keep their status as citizens, regardless of the scale of their crimes against this country or their intent to commit more. The true test of the rights and legal protections we have as citizens is when they must be applied even to the worst among us. The bill Mr. Lieberman is proposing would do more to harm the fabric and character of our national values than any act of violence ever could.

Moral arguments aside, I fail to see the legal or political advantages to this bill. For starters, isn't prosecuting non-citizens who commit crimes against the United States infinitely more complicated than prosecuting our own citizens? Any trials and convictions are far more likely to withstand legal challenge if the utmost precaution was taken to avoid infringing upon the legal rights of the defendant. Having those legal rights clearly defined helps prevent them from being violated. Yes, it's easier to break down the door of a murder suspect and start looking for evidence than to wait and obtain a search warrant. But if the evidence is thrown out in court or on appeal, a killer goes free. We're all made safer when the rights and protections guaranteed to us by the constitution are respected for every one.

Perhaps this legislation upsets me so much because I see how, with only the smallest stretches, it could be applied to me. I've traveled to Palestine, and I've sent money, both to charitable organizations and educational institutions. The way Palestinian groups are viewed by my government is often quite extreme; you yourself had to circumvent some of the more draconian anti-Palestinian legislation in the service of our own national security interests. I have little doubt that Senator Lieberman and my own definition of appropriate groups to affiliate myself with may be different, in this part of the world. In addition, I have written, both in letters to you and in other places, about doubting the morality of remaining in America while my tax dollars pay for the Israeli occupation. Would this be grounds enough to demonstrate intent to renounce my citizenship? I'm not a lawyer, Mr. President, but it seems to me that this bill might easily be applied to mean that, without a shred of violent intent towards any American, I could be viewed as unworthy of my rights as an American citizen.

Please, sir, do not support this legislation. Walk back the support of those in your administration, like Secretary Clinton, who would, in their zeal to fight terror, do more harm to this country than any they bomb ever could. We cannot turn on our own citizens; the greatest threats to civil liberties have historically come in the name of protection from enemies inside and out. Remember, Mr. President, your power, and Senator Lieberman's power, comes from the citizens of this country who granted it to you. We trusted you to defend and uphold those codified rights that are older than any of us and will outlast us all. No amount of fear will ever make it acceptable for those rights to be taken away.

Respectfully yours,


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