Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday that she liked “the spirit of” a proposal by Sen. Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.) to empower the State Department to revoke U.S. citizenship from individuals with ties to foreign terrorist organizations but that she would need a host of questions answered before she could support it.
Pelosi said her support for the proposal, unveiled Thursday by a bipartisan group led by Lieberman, would hinge on details such as the precise standard State Department officials would use to determine that an individual has a connection to a terrorist group, who compiles the list of qualifying terrorist organizations and how extensive that list is.
“We need to be very careful about this,” said Pelosi, who said she had not reviewed the language of the proposal. “I like the spirit of it, but I’d like to know what the trigger of it is.”
Any legislation she would endorse would have to include adequate due process protections, Pelosi said, adding that she was wary of anything that could conceivably target American citizens “just because of their ethnic background,” much like what happened to Japanese-Americans who were interned during World War II.
“I think there are some questions that need to be answered about it,” Pelosi said. “Certainly our first responsibility is the safety of the American people, and of course, in keeping the American people safe, we want to uphold our values.
The legislation that Lieberman — along with Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), Rep. Jason Altmire (D-Pa.) and Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) — proposed would update an existing federal law that outlines seven conditions under which an individual’s citizenship could be revoked to include any individual who supports a group that the State Department has deemed a “foreign terrorist organization.”
Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) also said he was unfamiliar with the details of the proposal but that he thought revoking citizenship would be “pretty difficult under the U.S. Constitution.”
“If they’re a U.S. citizen, until they are convicted of some crime, I don’t know how you attempt to take their citizenship,” Boehner said.
Jackie Kucinich contributed to this report.