Senator Ted Cruz isn’t one to throw a bone to the Obama administration. But a new bill that he introduced would give the government enormous new powers when it comes to national security.
It’s called the “Expatriate Terrorist Act” and on the surface its intentions seem good enough. It allows the United States to revoke the citizenship of anyone fighting for or aiding a terrorist group like ISIS.
“If we do not pass this legislation, the consequence will be that Americans fighting alongside ISIS today may come home tomorrow with a U.S. passport, may come home to New York or Los Angeles or Houston or Chicago and innocent Americans may be murdered if the Senate does not act today,” Cruz said yesterday.
The Cruz bill is similar to one former senator Scott Brown introduced last year, co-sponsored with former senator Joe Lieberman. Earlier this week Brown appeared on Fox News to boast that he’d given Cruz the idea.
As many as 100 U.S. citizens are believed to have linked up with ISIS, all of whom could theoretically return home and stage an attack on the United States. So Cruz’s idea is common sense, right?
There’s just one problem: Cruz’s bill allows the feds to strip someone of citizenship without requiring due process for suspects. As Ian Millhiser points out:
Should Cruz’s bill become law, [the government] would only need to prove it by a “preponderance of the evidence” standard — which is to say there’s a lot of evidence against the suspect, but it’s not necessarily an iron-clad case. That’s a much lower burden of proof on the government than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard that applies in criminal proceedings.
Meaning Ted Cruz is actually ceding an enormous power to Barack Obama’s government: the ability to revoke someone’s citizenship without meeting the usual high standards of the criminal justice system.
Plus, as Millhiser notes, the crime of aiding and abetting ISIS is already covered in the Constitution: it’s treason, and treason has a much higher evidentiary standard than just a “preponderance of the evidence.”
Yesterday Democrats blocked Cruz’s bill in the Senate, saying that more time was needed to review its constitutional implications. As they do so, let’s hope they remember Senator Rand Paul’s words on Anwar al-Awlaki who was killed by a United States drone strike.
“In our country, even if you are a terrible person, if you are murderer or a rapist, you are accused, but then you’re given a chance to confront your accusers,” Paul said. “The burden is on the government.”