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Sunday, March 7, 2010

An American in al Qaeda

As of Sunday night, there were conflicting reports on whether Adam Gadahn, an American-born spokesman for al Qaeda, was actually under arrest. Gadahn is the first American to face treason charges since the Second World War era, and the charges carry a possible death penalty.

The story touches on two points from our textbook.

First, as we explain in the mass media chapter, news involves uncertainty. Reporters often err, especially in the early stages of a breaking story.

Second, as the citizenship chapter describes, it is possible to renounce citizenship. But the State Department explains that any American who wants to renounce citizenship must
  1. appear in person before a U.S. consular or diplomatic officer,
  2. in a foreign country (normally at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate); and
  3. sign an oath of renunciation

Renunciations that do not meet the conditions described above have no legal effect. [emphasis added]

The last point is important. Gadahn appeared in a video ripping up his passport and saying he was renouncing his citizenship. But because he did not meet the specified conditions, what he did on the video did not count. He is still an American citizen, so the charges remain in effect.