Could Madeleine Albright Be Expatriated?

Last week, Vaclav Havel urged Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to campaign for the Czech presidency when he steps down from the post in three years. If she won, could she retain her United States citizenship?

Albright’s successor would get to decide.

If Albright simply wanted to become a Czech citizen, the U.S. government would have no grounds to expatriate her. The government allows U.S. citizens to become foreign nationals and retain their U.S. affiliation, provided that they don’t formally renounce their U.S. citizenship in the process.

If a citizen assumes a public office in a foreign state, however, the U.S. government takes a different view. To assume the Czech presidency–a post elected by the Parliament–Albright would have to become a Czech citizen and take an oath swearing allegiance to the country, which would become grounds for the U.S. to revoke her citizenship.

Technically, the State Department could decide to pursue an expatriation case against Albright in order to underscore her break with the United States. Alternatively (and more likely), Albright’s old colleagues could decide not to take any action and let the former secretary keep her American passport.

Albright would not be the first U.S. citizen and former federal employee to become a foreign leader. Valdas Adamkus served as the Midwest regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency for more than a decade before he was elected president of Lithuania in 1998. But Adamkus relinquished his American citizenship just weeks before assuming the presidency.

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