There's a letter in today's New York Times that crystalizes how I feel about the outcome of the Hamdi case:
Yaser Hamdi, U.S. Citizen
Re “U.S. Releases Saudi-American It Had Captured in Afghanistan” (news article, Oct. 12):
You report that as a condition for releasing Yaser E. Hamdi, who was held without charges and in solitary confinement for about three years, the United States required that he “renounce his American citizenship.” The United States government has no authority to compel such a renunciation, and Mr. Hamdi's proclamation that he is no longer an American is legally meaningless.
Mr. Hamdi was born in Louisiana. The United States Constitution defines anyone who is born in the United States as a citizen. Neither the State Department, the Justice Department nor the president has the authority to alter the Constitution unilaterally.
In Vance v. Terrazas, the Supreme Court made it clear that the government cannot coerce someone to surrender citizenship.
By trying to do precisely that, the United States has continued to act lawlessly toward Mr. Hamdi.
David R. Dow
Houston, Oct. 13, 2004
The writer is a professor at the University of Houston Law Center.
Isn't it somewhat, um, scary when the government can lock a citizen up in solitary for three years, deny access to lawyers or family, then say, “Hey, no need for a trial or anything messy like that: We'll let you out of solitary if you agree to permanent exile?”.
It sounds Soviet to me.
Wow! Catagory 5 on the Shrill-o-meter!
But you could’ve made the point even more plain. Not only can the Feds detain a US citizen indefinitely without a hearing, they can take punitive action on that person without even a charge (let alone a conviction). In some ways, this case sounds like it was settled with a plea-bargain, but plea-bargains at least require an admission of guilt as part of the deal (otherwise, what’s the justification for punishment?).
If this stands, the Feds don’t even need to concoct a legally acceptable excuse to punish a citizen anymore. As if arbitrary detention was bad enough.
I had some small regrets about this post back in May about the Soviet Union’s Article 58. I don’t really have any regrets any more — the people running our country right now have removed all doubt.