Expatriating Terrorists

Peter J. Spiro

Temple University - James E. Beasley School of Law

April 22, 2014

Fordham Law Review, Vol. 82, p. 2169, 2014
Temple University Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2014-20

There have been few episodes in which Congress has resisted counter-terror initiatives. Notable among exceptions are proposals to strip terrorists of their U.S. citizenship. The bipartisan rejection of such proposals presents a puzzle. Insofar as citizenship has historically been associated with loyalty, it would seem a costless, expressive remedy to terminate the citizenship of those who lend support to hostile entities. And yet high-profile efforts to legislate the termination of citizenship in the context of terrorist activities have fallen flat in the United States.

This essay seeks to explain the rejection of a terrorism ground for terminating U.S. citizenship. The essay first establishes the constitutionality of proposals, focusing on Joe Lieberman’s 2010 Terrorist Expatriation Act, which would have used association with foreign terrorist groups to evidence an individual’s intent to relinquish citizenship. Conforming such measures to the Supreme Court’s citizenship jurisprudence limits their utility. The Lieberman proposal could have been put to work in a very small number of cases. Expatriation would be clear-cut only where terrorist activity were coupled with unambiguous expressions of individual intent. Expatriation would do little to advance the counter-terror agenda. Few counter-terror tactics account for citizenship. Citizenship no longer buys individuals much protection.

Where the expatriation proposal lacked instrumental advantage, it might have had expressive value. The essay concludes that rejection of the expatriation measure was overdetermined, and that various contingencies and legacy understandings of U.S. citizenship undermine the expressive value of terrorist expatriation. Even as other states (including the United Kingdom) broaden terrorist expatriation practices, it is unlikely to become a dimension of the U.S. counter-terror response.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 20

Keywords: expatriation, citizenship, counter-terrorism

Open PDF in Browser Download This Paper

Date posted: April 25, 2014 ; Last revised: May 29, 2014

Suggested Citation

Spiro, Peter J., Expatriating Terrorists (April 22, 2014). Fordham Law Review, Vol. 82, p. 2169, 2014; Temple University Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2014-20. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2427846

Contact Information

Peter J. Spiro (Contact Author)
Temple University - James E. Beasley School of Law ( email )
1719 N. Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19122
United States
Feedback to SSRN

Paper statistics
Abstract Views: 1,045
Downloads: 133
Download Rank: 158,919

© 2016 Social Science Electronic Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.  FAQ   Terms of Use   Privacy Policy   Copyright   Contact Us
This page was processed by apollobot1 in 0.172 seconds