US Constitution Does Not Protect Foreign Citizens

Posted on 12/03/2011 by


Image via ACLU blog Indefinite Detention

First off, if anyone doesn’t know who Birgitta Jonsdottir is, she’s awesome. You can follower her on Twitter, and read her blog. You should also know that if she ever should visit the United States, she has no rights, and cannot be defended by any US or common laws whatsoever.

Sound extreme? You bet it is. From the court opinion, footnote on page 8:

Though they assert First and Fourth Amendment claims, petitioners cite no authority as to the applicability of the United States Constitution to  non-citizens residing and acting outside of the U.S. … The Court has  serious doubts as to whether Ms. Jonsdottir and Mr. Gonggrijp enjoy rights under the U.S. Constitution.

This is painfully ironic, given that not too long ago the US government requested diplomatic immunity for former president George W Bush, when he was visiting Switzerland. That move was taken to protect him against possible arrest on charges of crimes against humanity. But leaving aside the habit of the US government to try to play both sides of one game, I’d like to focus on the implications of the above quoted paragraph.

For those who don’t know, the US Constitution was designed to include English common law as part of its framework. To condense a very complicated topic, the Constitution didn’t emerge out of nothing; it came from the English legal system. Part and parcel of that system is that parliamentarians (in the US, Members of Congress) enjoy diplomatic immunity as part of their job. This immunity, as far as I’m aware, has always covered an MP’s entire life, because they are an MPs at all times.

However, according to the court’s opinion, page 15:

[Birgitta Jonsdottir’s] status as a member of parliament is merely incidental to this investigation… Also, neither petitioners nor the Inter-Parliamentary Union have cited authority to support their assumption that Icelandic immunity extends to public “tweets”. In the United States, such public statements are not regarded as part of the legislative function or process, and thus would not invoke the legislative immunity of the Constitution’s  Speech and Debate Clause.

What this court finding has done, in essence, is strip any sort of legal protection for foreign citizens under US laws. This is contained in the simple phrase: “The Court has serious doubts as to whether Ms. Jonsdottir and Mr. Gonggrijp enjoy rights under the U.S. Constitution.” A very gruesome world of possibility can be leveraged off of that phrase, especially if it prevails against the appeal filed on behalf of Birgitta Jonsdottir.

The ultimate logical working out of that phrase is quite simply a defence of so-called ‘indefinite interment’, better known as ‘extra-legal permanent imprisonment’. If someone is not a US citizen, and they enjoy none of the rights listed in the Constitution, then they are frankly fair game for whatever the US government might decide to do with them.

The insanity of the ‘War on Terror’ is permeating the judicial system in the USA. This is terrible news, and seems to be part of a ground-up attempt to dismantle any sort of protection for non-US citizens against excesses carried out in the name of this increasingly out-of-control and dictatorial ‘War’. If foreign citizens have no protection under the Constitution, then nothing is preventing them from being imprisoned for no reason, and tortured until either dead or ‘useless’.

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Posted in: Analysis, WikiLeaks