Back in 2003 Iyman Faris was convicted of a rather scatterbrained plot to take down the Brooklyn Bridge by cutting the structure’s support cables. He was planning to do this in collusion with Al Qaeda as part of a possible second wave of attacks against the United States. He was given a rather lengthy jail term but he’s due to be released in December 2020. So what happens then? He’s a naturalized citizen of Pakistani birth, but the Justice Department is now looking to change that situation by stripping him of said citizenship and ejecting him from the country. (Associated Press)
The Department of Justice has taken the rare step of seeking to strip a convicted terrorist of his U.S. citizenship as he serves the last several years of a 20-year prison sentence for plotting to destroy New York’s Brooklyn Bridge.
Some national security experts suggested Tuesday the move might signal a new, tougher line under President Donald Trump.
The case involves Iyman Faris, 47 and born in Pakistan, who was sentenced in 2003 for aiding and abetting the al-Qaida terrorist group with his plan to cut through cables that support the iconic bridge. At the time, it was among the highest profile terrorism cases in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people.
Can we really do this? I certainly hope so, and all signs point to there being precedent for such an action. You can’t take away the citizenship of a natural born American citizen, but we have revoked that status for naturalized citizens in the past, including Nazis who were discovered living here after having fled Europe following World War II.
Amazingly, there are already people raising a fuss over this and saying that it would set a bad precedent. Really? Faris had worked briefly as a double agent for the FBI but confessed to being part of the infamous terrorist network and plotting one of the more devastating attacks we would have ever seen on American soil had he succeeded. Critics of this proposal seem to be implying that taking away his citizenship would constitute extra punishment not provided for under the law. Perhaps that’s true, but terror attacks seem to fall into a rather unique niche of the American justice system.
As much as some may wish it weren’t so, we actually do have two “classes” of citizenship. It’s laid out right in the Constitution and affects one’s eligibility to run for president. There actually are differences between natural born and naturalized citizens. The naturalized citizen essentially signs a contract to obtain that status and part of that agreement is a pledge to support and defend their new country. It seems to go without saying that Faris has violated his side of the bargain. In that light, the revocation of citizenship and deportation wouldn’t actually be “extra punishment” for his terror plot, but more of a technicality of violating his agreement.
I would say, however, that we need to proceed with caution here. One thing we don’t want to set ourselves up for is a situation where naturalized citizens convicted of more mundane infractions suddenly find themselves being booted out of the country. But it seems to me that we can make an exception when it comes to terrorists.