As of Wednesday Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky, was holding up the vote to confirm a new CIA director because of some sketchy legal mumbling from Attorney General Eric Holder.
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Holder is the man who claimed no knowledge of Operation Fast and Furious, in which one of his chiefs authorized the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to let thousands of guns cross the border into Mexico to be used by drug cartels. The theory was to trace them, but they lost track of them.
Now, in response to queries from a senator Holder hasn’t ruled out using a killer drone on U.S. soil.
In one letter, Holder said the U.S. has never carried out a drone strike against one of its citizens on American soil, and called a situation where such a strike may occur “entirely hypothetical” and “unlikely to occur.”
But he added, “It is possible, I suppose, to imagine an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the president to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States.” As examples he cited “catastrophic” attacks such as the Sept. 11 attacks or the attack on Pearl Harbor.
And this is why Paul was filibustering the nomination of John Brennan as CIA director. Paul and the bipartisan group of senators aiding him, will end the filibuster, Paul said, if Holder will guarantee in writing that the president — any president — will not and cannot summarily execute noncombatant Americans by a drone strike. Paul ended his filibuster after nearly 13 hours.
Paul is doing this country a service. Holder’s dodgy legal statement is too loose. Drone strikes on U.S. soil should never happen. During 9/11 military jets were scrambled to force down any airplanes still flying that might be piloted by terrorists. It is different being contacted by radio by a pilot in a military jet. Drones can’t make those kind of contacts and assessments.
Pearl Harbor, of course, was an enemy attack. There were some sailors and soldiers who were able to man anti-aircraft guns. Most U.S. military aircraft were destroyed on the ground in the neat rows in which they had been parked. A handful of U.S. planes counterattacked. The Constitution didn’t stop President Franklin Roosevelt from issuing Executive Order 9066 sending California’s Japanese-Americans to internment camps.
In times of national crisis there is a tendency to overreact. That overreaction was on display recently during the manhunt for the murderous rogue L.A. cop when police protecting a policeman’s home fired multiple times at a pickup truck in which two women were delivering newspapers and then another innocent pickup truck driver was shot at as being the possible suspect.
Overreaction is always a possibility in a crisis. We won’t need the nation’s top law enforcement officer putting it down in writing and claiming some vague constitutional authority for the president to authorize assassination of U.S. citizens on U.S. soil.
We thank Sen. Paul for keeping this country honest.