For months leading up to the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) opponents of the legislation vehemently argued that it usurped, among other fundamental laws of the land, 5th Amendment provisions of due process of law, essentially allowing for the detainment of American citizens without charge or public trial. To remedy the political fallout, President Obama included a signing statement when he approved the bill over the New Year’s weekend to the effect that he would only use his newly appointed powers to detain foreign nationals – not Americans.
As the controversy played out, however, unbeknownst to most of us, legislation that would completely bypass that signing statement was already in the works. In October of last year Representative Charles Dent (R-PA), Senator Joe Lieberman (D-CT) and faux-Tea Party darling Senator Scott Brown (R-MA) conspired to introduce a scant but very powerful amendment to the Immigration and Nationality Act that outlines a “list of acts for which U.S. nationals would lose their nationality.”
Dubbed the Enemy Expatriation Act (HR 3166), the amendment would essentially grant the United States government, perhaps through anonymous military tribunal or by secretive Congressional super panel, the power to brand Americans as hostiles for “engaging in, or purposefully and materially supporting, hostilities against the United States,” where “the term ‘hostilities’ means any conflict subject to the laws of war.”
As is typically the case, the language is vague and allows for broad interpretation of what is or is not considered a “hostile” act.
In prepared teleprompter delivered comments, bill sponsor Rep. Charles Dent defends his support of the proposed bill (video below):
The bipartisan legislation I introduced this week calls for a pragmatic recognition that a person who is purposefully and materially supporting acts of terror against the United States is demonstrating they have no intent of acting as a U.S. citizen. If they want to engage in hostilities against the American people then they clearly no longer wish to be a citizen of our great nation.
Currently, an individual who engages in hostilities against the United States on behalf of an armed force of a foreign state has committed an expatriating act. Our legislation clarifies that engaging in hostilities by supporting terrorism will also constitute an expatriating act.
I believe being an American citizen is more than a right. It is a responsibility.
It is now clear why President Obama added a signing statement to the recently passed NDAA. The Enemy Expatriation Act may be short and simple, but it is a highly effective work-around. Under NDAA, according to the President and its many Congressional supporters, American citizens who commit hostilities against the United States cannot be detained in the manner of, say, a Guantanamo inmate who has no right to trial by jury or even discovery of evidence because most of it is classified as a national security issue.
With the addition of this new legislation, however, an American can first be detained for engaging in or materially supporting ambiguously defined terrorist activity under the Patriot Act, determined to be hostile by a secret panel, stripped of their citizenship, and then, conveniently, detained indefinitely without trial under the National Defense Authorization Act.
As we’ve outlined previously, over the last ten years the definitions for “terrorism” and “extremism” have changed drastically. Just recently, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano announced that the terrorist threat has “shifted” to “lone wolf attackers” not abroad, but here at home. Combined with previous alerts and bulletins from the Department of Homeland Security, seemingly innocent activities such as purchasing habits or political leanings can classify Americans as persons-of-interest and domestic extremists.
The recent trial of Bernard von NotHaus, who coined his own “Liberty Dollars” manufactured of pure gold and silver, was accused of terrorism by the Department of Justice for a crime that, for two hundred years, was known simply as “counterfeiting”:
Attempts to undermine the legitimate currency of this country are simply a unique form of domestic terrorism, U.S. Attorney Tompkins said in announcing the verdict. While these forms of anti-government activities do not involve violence, they are every bit as insidious and represent a clear and present danger to the economic stability of this country, she added. We are determined to meet these threats through infiltration, disruption, and dismantling of organizations which seek to challenge the legitimacy of our democratic form of government.
From teenagers engaging in typical adolescent behavior and protesters fighting for their right to be heard, to a guy buying survival food or joining in a heated debate on the internet, a semantic change for words like terrorism, terrorist, hostilities, and domestic extremist is taking place in the social and political spheres.
Soon, any activity deemed contrary to the ideas, purposes and principles of the ruling class and the plutocratic elites will be grounds for detainment, imprisonment and expulsion.