Rand Paul stood before the Senate yesterday to filibuster the nomination of John Brennan as the head of the CIA, using the platform to denounce the illegal and unconstitutional extrajudicial murder of American citizens via drone attacks (our most recent coverage here). It was the first filibuster since 2010, and one of the longest on record – 13+ hours, ending at roughly 1am ET.
While Rand bravely denounced the Obama Administration’s acts, and spoke eloquently on the rights that every American citizen is supposedly guaranteed (namely the right to a trial and hearing what one is actually being accused of before a sentence is carried out), the support for the filibuster itself was a tragic example of how far liberty has fallen in import to those representing us. A total of 12 Senators took part in this filibuster and supported Sen. Paul’s stance on drone attacks. Republican Sens. Mike Lee of Utah, Ted Cruz and John Cornyn of Texas, Jerry Moran of Kansas, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Marco Rubio of Florida, Jeff Flake of Arizona, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Tim Scott of South Carolina, John Thune of South Dakota and John Barrasso of Wyoming, plus (D) Ron Wyden of Oregon. With the Senate having 100 members, that means less than 20% of Senators feel that the extrajudicial assassination of Americans is just plain peachy-keen OK. And that is unacceptable.
There is no justification for undermining one of the basic tenets of our Constitution. No threat domestically or abroad warrants the killing of a citizen without he/she being able to address and defend against the crime they are accused of. We already know that one innocent American was killed when 16-year-old, U.S.-born Abdulrahman Al-Awlaki was murdered by a drone strike in Yemen. His crime was that his father was Anwar Al-Awlaki, another U.S. citizen and alleged Al-Qaeda also murdered by a drone strike in Yemen, and also never indicted or charged with a crime. Rand Paul cited this in his filibuster, but it apparently fell upon deaf ears in the echoing catacomb of the Senate that has become a tomb for liberty. This filibuster took place after Sen. Paul received a letter in response to his query on drone attacks on a U.S. citizen, on U.S. soil, without trial addressed to John Brennan.
The Senate? Unfazed.
Then we have two prominent GOP Senators, former Presidential nominee John McCain (we can’t even imagine life and liberty under this insane, war-crazed lunatic), and Lindsay Graham denouncing Paul’s act. And we get this brilliant insight from Graham:
Mr. Graham said asking whether the president has the power to kill Americans here at home is a ludicrous question.
“I do not believe that question deserves an answer,” Mr. Graham said
That was from the Washington Times. He doesn’t think that question, which was spawned from our President murdering a U.S. citizen without trial, deserves an answer. And he thinks that Rand Paul demanding that the Obama administration pledge not to extrajudicially assassinate Americans is a waste of Senate time. What a leader.
As we have just recently learned today, in the end it was a kind-of-sort-of victory, with Attorney General Holder sending Rand Paul a letter today citing that ”It has come to my attention,” the letter states “That you have now asked an additional question: ‘Does the President have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil?’ The answer to that question is no.”
On the surface that sounds like the White House saying that it won’t kill Americans here (Abroad? Guess that’s still up for debate…). But really, it’s not. Really, nothing has changed. Because this language still exists in internal government memos from the Department of Justice.
“The condition that an operational leader present an ‘imminent’ threat of violent attack against the United States does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future,” the memo states.
You can read my whole take on that here. The government’s definition of “combat” varies widely, and someone involved in a suspected terrorist act, who is an “imminent” threat still qualifies as a combatant. Rand Paul has said that he was happy with the answer, but those of us who aren’t easily fooled realize that Holder has promised nothing with that statement. It was a nice gesture, Rand. But pointless in the end. I only wish you could see that as clearly as the rest of us.