Since 9/11, the Department of Justice has prosecuted more than 500 terrorism cases, yet there remains scant public understanding of what these federal cases have actually looked like and the impact they have had on communities and families. Published by The Nation in collaboration with Educators for Civil Liberties, the America After 9/11 series features contributions from scholars, researchers and advocates to provide a systematic look at the patterns of civil rights abuses in the United States’ domestic “war on terror.”
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“I am [prisoner number] 239. I even refer to myself as 239 these days. I am not sure when I will ever be anything else. It is much easier to deny human rights to those who are not deemed to be ‘human.’”
Those are the words of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident held at Guantánamo Bay, who has now been there for just over twelve years. At the State of the Union in January, President Obama reiterated his pledge to close the detention center, where more than 150 men remain in legal limbo. But what of Obama’s promise to end the other abuses Aamer and many other Guantánamo detainees have endured in the name of the “War on Terror”—the kidnappings in the dark of night, the horrific conditions of confinement, the multi-state complicity in torture alleged by Aamer and many others?
New evidence raises the possibility that American-British collaboration on the kidnapping and killing of Britons continues to the present day, albeit obscured through the application of a little known British power called citizenship deprivation. In 2002, the Home Office—the British ministerial department responsible for immigration and law and order—gained the authority to strip British dual-nationals of their citizenship with no prior approval from the courts. The home secretary merely needs to assert that depriving someone of citizenship is “conducive to the public good.” The deprivation order comes into effect immediately, and is extremely difficult to overturn.
Citizenship deprivation has gained significant coverage in the United Kingdom. But the practice remains almost completely unknown in the US, even in the wake of several cases in which Britons who had been stripped of their citizenship were suddenly and mysteriously rendered to the United States or killed in American drone strikes.
Katherine Craig works for the British legal charity Reprieve and previously represented a number of former British Guantánamo Bay detainees. As she explained to The Nation, “Revoking someone’s citizenship obviously removes a number of the obstacles to killing, kidnapping or torturing them, which might otherwise prove inconvenient or embarrassing to supporters of the US-led ‘War on Terror.’ The concern is that citizenship-stripping is being used by the UK in order to dampen legal and public opposition to President Obama’s campaign of targeted killing by drone and other unlawful practices.”