WASHINGTON — A US senator called Tuesday for some Americans who target fellow citizens with terrorist violence to be stripped of their citizenship rights in the wake of the failed New York car bombing plot.
"If you're attacking your fellow Americans in an act of war you lose the rights that come with citizenship," Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, an independent, told reporters.
Lieberman said he was trying to amend an old US law "that says that if an American citizen is found to be fighting in the military of a nation with whom we are at war, they lose their citizenship."
He said his proposal would apply to "any individual apprehended, American citizen, who is found to be involved with a foreign terrorist organization as designated by the Department of State."
"If you have joined an enemy of the United States in attacking the United States to try to kill Americans I think you sacrifice your rights of citizenship," said Lieberman.
His comments came hours after US authorities announced they had arrested a Pakistani-American, Faisal Shahzad, suspected of trying to detonate the car bomb in New York's popular Times Square district on Saturday night.
US Attorney General Eric Holder told a press conference Tuesday that Shahzad would be charged with "an act of terrorism transcending national borders."
It was unclear whether Lieberman's measure would cover domestic extremists, such as those who attack abortion clinics or the detained members of a radical Christian militia plotting to kill police and wage war against the government.
But the proposal won the backing in principle of Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, who told AFP: "That sounds like something I'd support, but I'd have to look at the legislation."
And Republican Senator John McCain said Americans should lose their citizenship rights "if they're designated an enemy combatant, yes."
Lieberman also sided with critics of President Barack Obama's administration in saying that Shahzad should not be read his legal "Miranda" rights to remain silent or have a lawyer before questioning.
"If they (US authorities) make a judgment that this was a terrorist act, the person should be turned over to the military," notably an elite interrogation unit formed by Obama, he said.
"The first thing you want to get from somebody like this is information about other co-conspirators, perhaps about other attacks that are planned at the same time, and then a judgment is made about whether he should be read his Miranda rights," said Lieberman.
But FBI deputy director John Pistole, standing alongside Holder at the same press conference, said Shahzad was actually interrogated early Tuesday under a "public safety exception to the Miranda rule," and that he "provided valuable intelligence and evidence" to investigators.
"He was Mirandized later and continued to cooperate and provide valuable information," Pistole said.
Failure to inform a suspect of their so-called "Miranda rights" can lead courts to forbid the use of information obtained thanks to their questioning.
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