The House of Representatives has passed a bill that will allow the government to seize passports from anyone that they feel may be a threat to national security. Although the bill’s stated objective is to restrict potential terrorist movements, opponents say it is unconstitutional and could be used for whatever purpose the government applies.
Republican Representative Ted Poe of Texas sponsored the Foreign Terrorist Organization Passport Revocation Act. “The Benedict Arnold traitors who have turned against America and joined the ranks of the terrorist army ISIS should lose all rights afforded to our citizens,” said Poe
The bill was passed July 28 after only 15 minutes of debate and is currently being considered by the Senate. Under this act, the Secretary of State may refuse to issue a passport to anyone deemed to have assisted, abetted, or otherwise helped an organization designated as a foreign terrorist organization. It also permits the state department to revoke any previously issued passport based on the same criteria.
Critics claim that the bill gives the government broad discretion to decide what is and what is not terrorist acitivity and that tourists and expats could be targeted in some cases for political reasons.
This bill is a stricter application of the already existing laws. The current law allows passports to be revoked for a number of reasons, but the individual has the right to contest the decision. The new bill eliminates the appeal process.
“The bill provides no ability for someone wrongly denied a passport to challenge the Secretary of State’s findings that they helped a terrorist,” said Norm Singleton, vice president for policy at the Campaign for Liberty, according to The New American.
Daniel McAdams of the Ron Paul Institute commented that the U.S. Secretary of State could take his passport without the burden of proof and keep all the evidence secret and never be required to justify this act. “And this is considered ‘uncontroversial’ in the United States?” he asked.
Others have noted how unnecessary the legislation seems, given the technologies already used to track individuals’ movement.
“Given that this technology exists, there is no need for the U.S. government to add powers that could end up stripping passports from citizens unnecessarily,” Patrick Weil wrote for Reuters. “To do otherwise would be to ignore serious constitutional problems.”