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A Voluntary Deal

Friday, October 22, 2004; Page A24

Contrary to what Maura Dundon asserted [letters, Oct. 18], Yaser Esam Hamdi's renunciation of his U.S. citizenship in exchange for his release from indefinite detention as an illegal combatant was both knowing and voluntary by constitutional standards.

The Supreme Court explained in North Carolina v. Alford (1970) that a plea bargain that "would not have been entered except for the defendant's desire to [avoid a possible punishment is] not for that reason compelled within the meaning of the Fifth Amendment." Moreover, as Mr. Hamdi himself amplified in a New York Times interview, he believed he was a Saudi citizen at age 18 and himself first broached the idea of renouncing any claim to U.S. citizenship to avoid imprisonment.

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The writer was an associate deputy attorney general during the Reagan administration.

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