But as ThinkProgress’s Matt Yglesias wrote last week, what’s missing from discussion of the Awlaki case “is the question of why he was still a U.S. citizen up to the day he died.” Had he been fighting for a foreign state’s armed forces or swore allegiance to an enemy state, Awlaki would have been stripped of his American citizenship. “The correct way out of this,” Yglesias argued, “seems to me to amend the relevant section of the Immigration and Nationality Act such that swearing allegiance to al Qaeda can count as an expatriating act in the same way that defecting to North Korea would.”
This is exactly what Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA) tried to do last year. Dent introduced a bill that would have stripped Awlaki of his American citizenship, arguing that he “voluntarily renounced his citizenship by recruiting terrorists to engage in violent acts of terrorism against United States and by advocating the violent overthrow of the American government.” While the measure failed to get out of committee, Dent announced last week that in intends to introduce “similar” legislation:
Last year, I introduced a measure encouraging the U.S. Department of State to consider al-Awlaki’s actions against America as a voluntary relinquishing of his citizenship. Shortly, I will be reintroducing similar legislation to allow the Department to investigate the actions of American citizens who take up arms against the U.S. and make an administrative determination if the individual intended to renounce his or her citizenship. Following that determination, the individual can challenge the findings in federal court.
In the event that Dent’s legislation, or something similar, passes, “[t]hen you would need a quasi-judicial process through which an evidentiary determination could be made that someone has, in fact, expatriated himself,” Yglesias writes, “It’s less fun than ad hoc determinations by the DOD and the White House staff, but it would sit a heck of a lot easier with me.” Dent’s office did not respond to a request for comment on his bill.