August 31, 2006

Citizenship Means Nothing

Glenn Greenwald points to a story about two U.S. citizens who are being refused reentry to the country because they have not consented to lawyerless interviews with the FBI. (Follow his links; here's a permalink to the NY Times story.) Relatives of theirs have been convicted in terrorism-related cases, but as their lawyer says if the government has evidence sufficient to charge them with a crime then it should do so. As it is, they have as Glenn says effectively been banished without any process of any kind. (It is their right to have a lawyer attend any FBI interview.)

These are, I emphasize, U.S. citizens. If they can arbitrarily be refused reentry into the country there is no principled reason that you or I could not be refused reentry (assuming you are also a citizen). Be very afraid.

Posted by Matt Weiner at August 31, 2006 09:45 PM

Don't their family ties count for anything? I understand your concern, but it seems that you have given a principled difference.

And I will take the hit, personally. Suppose my family is suspected of involvement in terrorism-related activities. And given my last name, there is good reason to think that my family is related in such activity (the Sopranos are paisans), even if not myself personally. They are justified in singling me out. And if it means I am inconvenianced, then so be it. So long as they are consistent across the board--if my loved one boards a plane, I would hope they pull aside anyone who might be a threat--even if they are my paisans.

Posted by: Diana at September 1, 2006 12:50 AM

The problem, though, is that that kind of profiling doesn't actually work very well; there are vastly more innocent Pakistani-Americans than terrorist Pakistani-Americans, and targeting someone without any evidence other than their name doesn't do you any good if they're unconnected to terrorism. So you end up with lots of false positives that waste your time, as well as a lot of angry people who are no longer as willing to help you with your investigations of the people who really do have clear ties to terrorism.

Posted by: teofilo at September 1, 2006 10:56 AM

And if it means I am inconvenianced

That's a funny way to spell "made a refugee".

Even supposing, for argument's sake, that family ties should count for something, there is no law saying how so; and even supposing, for argument's sake, that there were such a law, no one has been charged with violating it.

This is tin-pot dictator stuff.

Posted by: standpipe b at September 1, 2006 12:28 PM

This isn't a plane-safety issue. If they wanted to guarantee these people would not endanger the plane carrying them back to the US, they could do full searches on them, require them to travel with no luggage, sit a air marshal next to them, whatever. It's impossible to make planes 100% safe and even if you wanted to, the TSA security-hysteria of-the-moment system is not the way to do it, but I digress.

This is a way of coercing these people into interrogations. I fail to see a national security rationale for not letting them have lawyers present. Is that an admission that the FBI can't get the information it wants without depriving its subjects of legal advice and/or tricking them into saying things that can be used against them?

Posted by: Ben at September 1, 2006 02:27 PM

Hi, basically I'm agreement with the last three commenters. It's not that it's unjust to question these people; it's quite reasonable to question them if they're related to terrorism suspects. It's that they have rights as American citizens, and there's no justification for refusing them entry to the country if they exercise their rights. (And they're expected to take lie-detector tests? Why not have their palms read?)

And one of the all-important principles behind the U.S. constitution was that people can't be punished without due process, nor can they be punished for what their families did.

I'm also suspicious of the circumstances under which Jaber Ismail became a suspect. Hamid Hayat mentioned him in a "marathon FBI interrogation." To me that smacks of holding him until he gives up some names, any names. Those interrogations often don't yield good evidence.

No new developments I can see on this lately. Daniel Pipes defends it, and seems to suggest that radical Muslims just should have their citizenship. Pipes is almost always wrong about everything so this doesn't surprise me. This guy is appropriately rude about Pipes and about the general move to scotch due process.

Posted by: Matt Weiner at September 8, 2006 10:50 AM

and seems to suggest that radical Muslims just should have their citizenship.

"…stripped", yes?

Posted by: standpipe b at September 9, 2006 12:28 PM

Yup. Black sheep of your family, huh?

Posted by: Matt Weiner at September 9, 2006 03:12 PM