The Question of Treason in the Case of Another American Terrorist

By Dan Cadman on July 25, 2018

Media are reporting that an American citizen captured fighting in Syria for ISIS is now back in the United States and will be prosecuted for his participation in terrorist activities (see here and here).

The individual is named as Ibraheem Musaibli, 28 years of age. He is not the only American caught on the battlefield in Syria, as the cited articles explain.

Musaibli is variously describe as "from" and "a native of" Dearborn, Mich. The difference between the two descriptions is one of degree; the former is often used to describe one born abroad who settles in the United States and later naturalizes. The latter is unambiguously a native-born United States citizen, although depending on where his parents hailed from, he may also be a dual national, as is the case with one of his cohorts caught on the battlefield, so far identified only as "John Doe" in legal documents.

If Musaibli is a naturalized citizen, he is quite possibly subject to being denaturalized for his conduct in support of terrorist activities, either in a civil trial, or as an outcome of prosecution if the charge of procuring naturalization by fraud (for having concealed his terrorist connections) is added to other charges. See 8 U.S.C. Section 1451, which encompasses both civil and criminal processes.

But even native-born citizens can be stripped of their citizenship if they engage in treasonous activities. This is a point that I have discussed at length before. The relevant provision of law can be found at 8 U.S.C. Section 1481(a)(7).

I don't think it's a stretch to suggest that joining ISIS on the battlefield of Syria is to engage in treason. One need only examine ISIS's avowed goals, underwritten by its bloody actions worldwide, to realize that it is dedicated to the destruction of the West, and the United States in particular.

Why, you may ask, should the United States take the trouble to go this route if it already has Musaibli dead-to-rights on other terrorism-related criminal charges such as material support of terrorists (18 U.S.C. Section 2339A and 2339B)?

First, because, as a matter of principle, our government should be declaring at every instance the importance and value we attach to U.S. citizenship. Second, because it precludes such individuals from in the future availing themselves of the right to vote or hold a passport (presuming they ever get out of jail). And third, on a more practical level, because it opens up the possibility of deportation upon completion of any prison sentence imposed if Musaibli or another similarly situated individual happens to be a dual citizen.

Finally, let me observe this: It is a settled principle of both law and our sense of justice in this country that the sins of the fathers should not be visited on their offspring. Certainly the reverse must also be true, and we cannot impute to Musaibli's parents or siblings similar extremist views.

On the other hand, it is not unreasonable to ask whether or not his beliefs were derived from his parents, and if that is the case, whether they extend to other members of the family as well. Was that not the case with the Boston bombers? It was. This question merits at least a preliminary inquiry on the part of federal officials whose national security and public safety responsibilities are to society as a whole.