How Did the Times Square Suspect Become a US Citizen?

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Right after the news about the Times Square bomber broke, some Republicans were outraged that the suspect–a naturalized US citizen—had been read his Miranda rights after his arrest. The next installment in the debate is sure to be exactly how Pakistan-born Faisal Shahzad gained his citzenship–and whether it should have been granted in the first place.

Shahzad became a naturalized US citizen just a year ago, after marrying an American citizen in October 2008, according to one Bloomberg report. After being approved for US student visas in 1998 and 2002, Shahzad had passed all the necessary national security background checks and was naturalized in April 2009. The suspect also “apparently went back and forth to Pakistan often, making his last trip in February,” reports the New York Times, adding that he had traveled with three passports—two from Pakistan and one from the US.

There’s no way of knowing at this point whether Shahzad’s citizenship had facilitated any aspect of the attempted bombing or its genesis. Nor is it known whether Shahzad had designs to carry out the plot while he was seeking American citizenship. But federal officials are already looking to see if Shahzad had lied on any part of his citizenship application. And the questions surrounding his path in the US are likely to prompt renewed calls from conservatives for tightened immigration controls as a national security measure—particularly as the immigration debate heats up.

Though the debate has focused predominantly on Latino immigrants so far, it wasn’t long ago that concerns about terrorism were a big driver of both the national politics and policy of immigration. In 2007, in the midst of the last Congressional immigration debate, then-Colorado Rep. and GOP presidential hopeful Tom Tancredo released a TV ad claiming that “jihadists frothing with hate” would use the southern border to cross into the U.S. And it seems like such concerns could end up entering the political bloodstream once again. Already, security hawk Joe Lieberman (I-CT) has floated one especially draconian proposal: revoke the citizenship of Americans with ties to known terrorist networks, so they will be denied Miranda rights and can be tried in military tribunals instead of civilian courts. Now that’s a handy work-around: afford Americans the protections of citizenship only when it’s convenient.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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