Rand Paul Asks The Wrong Question On Administration’s Power To Kill Americans On US Soil
Via @slublog, Rand Paul’s got the right general idea on holding Obama to account but asks the wrong question. Paul wants CIA Director nominee John Brennan to answer a direct question about what limits the administration sees on its authority to target American citizens on US soil.
During your confirmation process in the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI), committee members have quite appropriately made requests similar to questions I raised in my previous letter to you-that you expound on your views on the limits of executive power in using lethal force against U.S. citizens, especially when operating on U.S. soil. In fact, the Chairman of the SSCI, Sen. Feinstein, specifically asked you in post-hearing questions for the record whether the Administration could carry out drone strikes inside the United States. In your response, you emphasized that the Administration “has not carried out” such strikes and “has no intention of doing so.” I do not find this response sufficient.
The question that I and many others have asked is not whether the Administration has or intends to carry out drone strikes inside the United States, but whether it believes it has the authority to do so. This is an important distinction that should not be ignored.
Paul goes on to say he will filibuster the nomination unless he gets an answer.
Here’s the problem, focusing on the authority (or lack thereof) to use a “drone” to kill an American on US soil misses the point. It’s not a question of what tool (a drone) Obama can use, it’s whether he thinks he can legally do it at all. Brennan could say, “no we aren’t allowed to use drones in that case” and then Obama could order a targeted killing of an American on American soil using a gun, knife, artillery shell or cruise missile and still have been honest in answering “no” to Paul’s question.
It’s clear where Paul is going but he needs to be precise.