Thursday, March 7, 2013

I Stand with Rand. The President has no authority to kill Americans on American soil without a trial.

I set glued to the TV last night fascinated as I watched on live CSPN TV, Paul Rand filibuster the nomination of John Brennan for Director of the CIA. The real purpose of the filibuster was not so much John Brennan as America's drone policy and the Presidents refusal to disavow the right to conduct drone assassinations. I ended up watching about three hours of it. I was not only impressed by Rand Paul but also by Ted Cruz of Texan and the Senator from Colorado.

I am appalled that the President and his Attorney General will not unequivocally state that they do not have the right to kill Americans on American soil with drone attacks. That is a simple question. The answer should be simple. Instead of saying the president has no such authority, they have said they have not done it, do not plan to do it and it would not be “appropriate.” That is an outrage!

This president will not accept any limits to his authority. He will not even accept a limit on his right to kill Americans on American soil who have not been found guilty of a crime. Below is an excerpt from Paul’s filibuster:

I rise today to begin to filibuster John Brennan’s nomination for the CIA. I will speak until I can no longer speak. I will speak as long as it takes, until the alarm is sounded from coast to coast that our Constitution is important, that your rights to trial by jury are precious, that no American should be killed by a drone on American soil without first being charged with a crime, without first being found to be guilty by a court, that Americans could be killed in a cafe in San Francisco or in a restaurant in Houston or at their home in Bowling Green, Ky., is an abomination. It is something that should not and cannot be tolerated in our country.
When I asked the president, ‘Can you kill an American on American soil?’ it should have been an easy answer. It’s an easy question. It should have been a resounding and unequivocal, ‘No.’ The president’s response? He hasn’t killed anyone yet. We’re supposed to be comforted by that. The president says, ‘I haven’t killed anyone yet.’ He goes on to say, ‘And I have no intention of killing Americans. But I might.’ Is that enough? Are we satisfied by that? Are we so complacent with our rights that we would allow a president to say he might kill Americans? But he will judge the circumstances, he will be the sole arbiter, he will be the sole decider, he will be the executioner in chief if he sees fit. Now, some would say he would never do this. Many people give the president the — you know, they give him consideration. They say he’s a good man. I’m not arguing he’s not. What I’m arguing is that the law is there and set in place for the day when angels don’t rule government.

Not only do I think Paul is right to demand that the President disavow the right to kill American’s on American soil, I also think it he is right to ask about our broader drone policy. Should we have the right to assassinate with drone attacks Americans in a foreign war zone without some sort of judicial review? Since in the War on Terror, the whole world is the war zone, this is a more important question than ever. Should not someone be looking over the shoulder of those ordering the killing? Rand Paul had a lengthy list of questions about drone policy. Every one of them deserves an answer.

Would this have been a legitimate target for a drone attack?
If you recall that in the aftermath of 9-11, seeking intelligence information the Bush administration engaged in some questionable eavesdropping on Americans making calls to and from foreign countries. As a result, a process was put in place requiring a special court authorization to eavesdrop in such cases. It should at least require as much oversight to assassinate an American overseas as it does to eavesdrop on their phone calls. I am appalled that Democrats and our mainstream media have been so quite on the question of our drone policy, especially the President’s refusal to disavow the right to use drones to assassinate Americans on American soil. If you think back about the scrutiny and coverage given to the issue of use of torture and the scrutiny given the issue of spying on Americans, why is the same scrutiny and coverage not given to the drone assassination of Americans?

In thinking about the use of drones to kill Americans in a foreign war zone, I have thought that if in the Vietnam war, had I been a General responsible for targeting drone attacks and we would have had drones, Jane Fonda sitting on that anti-aircraft gun in Hanoi for that propaganda photo op would have been a tempting target. That is why we need a system of judicial review and oversight.

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