In what is shaping up to be a potentially unprecedented matter, the United States government through efforts of the Trump administration is attempting to send a United States citizen to Saudi Arabia against his will and without a trial. It is a case that, if the government is granted its way, will seriously call into question the rule of law that underpins the United States Constitution and our justice system.
According to the story that Vox has published, the United States citizen in question is referred to as “John Doe” in court proceedings, a person who reportedly turned himself in to United States-allied fighters in Syria. John Doe is purported to have aided and assisted ISIS. The Department of Justice now seeks to send John Doe to Saudi Arabia to be dealt with over there. According to Brett Kaufman, a lawyer for the ACLU, “We are not aware of any case in American history where the government has tried to send away an American citizen.”
In 2004, the Supreme Court of the United States, in a plurality opinion issued by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor in the case Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, dealt with the basic question of the appropriate process due to a United States citizen detained as an enemy combatant. But the defendant there was due some process; in this case, the Trump administration is arguing that Doe deserves no trial.
Today, a federal appeals court will hear arguments that may determine whether Doe is sent to Saudi Arabia as proposed. The district court earlier this month blocked the sending of Doe based on the government not providing any persuasive basis for such a move. The one wrinkle in this matter is that the man in question has dual citizenship – both in the United States and in Saudi Arabia. The government’s argument is that Saudi Arabia has a “sovereign interest” in Doe. Doe disclaims any assistance to ISIS.
If Doe is sent to Saudi Arabia, it will be the first of its kind and may give the government extremely broad powers to extradite any “enemy combatant” to a less protective jurisdiction in cases of dual citizenship. Any United States citizen even suspected of supporting terrorism could be extradited without a trial or charging of any crime. The rule of law and due process may be at risk of loss.