Thursday, December 25, 2008

An X-Mas Gift

On X-Mas Eve, I received my new passport. I love the new design. I realize the new passports are a privacy lover's worst nightmare because of the embedded chips. I was still very happy to receive what felt like a timely gift from the feds. I especially like the quotes from famous Americans, including Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr., on each page. Here's one I had not seen before:

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty. -- JFK

The passport also has blank sections where you can write in your address and other contact information. Use pencil when writing in the requested information. I made the mistake of writing my address and phone number in pen on the passport. That's my fault, of course--paragraph 5 told me to use pencil. The new passport also has two new pages titled, "Important Information." Most of the information is excellent and useful, but there is one interesting section--"Loss of U.S. Citizenship" (paragraph 13):

LOSS OF CITIZENSHIP. Under certain circumstances, you may lose your U.S. citizenship by performing any of the following acts: (1) being naturalized in a foreign state; (2) taking an oath or making a declaration to a foreign state; (3) serving in the armed forces of a foreign state; (4) accepting employment with a foreign government; or (5) formally renouncing U.S. citizenship before a U.S. consular officer overseas.

I admit I don't know which federal statute the above language comes from. (If someone does, please post a comment or email me the U.S.C. and/or CFRs directly.) Even so, most of the language seems overly vague and may therefore be unconstitutional.

For example, "Taking an oath or making a declaration to a foreign state?" That could encompass a lawyer writing a declaration in another country's court of law on a routine matter.

How about, "Serving in the armed forces of another state?" What about an Israeli citizen with dual citizenship? (Israel has mandatory military service.)

In short, Americans have allowed their government too much discretion if their new passports contain the direct language of a federal law. I am now having visions of Sir Thomas More appearing before Chancellor Cromwell, i.e., an innocent citizen before a government employee who twists the law to eliminate opposition. My country can do better in protecting all of its citizens from the vagaries of government discretion.

1 comment:

Adam Rogoyski said...