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Controversial terror bill creates unlikely allies, foes

Fri May 7, 6:01 pm ET

A new bill that would permit the State Department to strip Americans of their citizenship if they support terror networks has drawn a cool reaction from the White House, even as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appeared to embrace the measure.

“I have not heard anybody inside the administration that’s been supportive of that idea,” White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbstold reporters Thursday.

But Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the administration would take “a hard look” at the measure, the New York Times reported. “United States citizenship is a privilege,” she told the Times. “It is not a right. People who are serving foreign powers — or in this case, foreign terrorists — are clearly in violation, in my personal opinion, of that oath which they swore when they became citizens.”

The proposed Terrorist Expatriation Act, introduced by SenateHomeland Security Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), seeks to update a federal statue that outlines seven infractions that can result in Americans losing their citizenship. The measure would add to the list “actively engaging in hostilities against the United States or its allies” and “providing material support or resources” to a federally designated terrorist organization.

“For example,” Lieberman said in a statement, “if a U.S. citizen travels to Somalia to train with and fight for [the Somali Islamist group] al-Shabaab — as more than 20 young men have done over the past several years — the State Department will now have the authority to revoke their citizenship so that they cannot return here to carry out an attack. If, in some way, they do, and are then captured, they will not enjoy the rights and privileges of American citizenship in the legal proceedings against them.”

But the measure has hit some resistance in Congress as well as theWhite House. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), for example, has expressed concern that the move would be unconstitutional — putting him in the very unusual position of agreeing with Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who also opposes the bill.

“If they’re a U.S. citizen, until they’re convicted of some crime, I don’t know how you would attempt to take their citizenship away,” Boehner said. “It would be pretty difficult under the U.S. Constitution.”

The bill dovetails with another recent debate over the legal standing of terror suspects: the question of whether  — regardless of their citizenship — they should be read their Miranda rights when they are taken into custody. Some Republicans attacked the Obama administration for Mirandizing terror suspect Faisal Shahzad, arguing it makes suspects less likely to give up valuable information. Attorney General Eric Holder says that Shahzad has been cooperating with authorities, and that Mirandizing terror suspects does not deter them from cooperating.

— Liz Goodwin is a national affairs writer for Yahoo! News.

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