Rand Paul Declares Victory;
Holder Sends Two-Liner
March 7, 2013 (EIRNS)After months of stonewalling, and a 13-hour "talking filibuster" on the Senate floor, the Obama Administration finally conceded on Thursday that President Obama has no authority to use a drone to kill an American inside the United States, if that individual is not engaged in combat against the United States.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky), who led the filibuster until after midnight on Wednesday evening, immediately called this "a major victory" for civil liberties. However, the Administration's capitulation did clear the way for a Senate vote, in which John Brennan was confirmed for CIA Director by a 63-34 vote.
Throughout his filibuster, Sen. Paul repeatedly stated that he was just asking for President Obama or Attorney General Eric Holder to answer a simple question: Does the President have the authority to kill a non-combatant American on American soil? Paul said at one point:
"It's about a Constitutional principle, and we're willing to delay this until the President can explicitly answer that noncombatants in America won't be killed with drone strikes. I think it's a pretty simple answer, but it's been like pulling teeth. I have written letter after letter for weeks and weeks trying to get an answer on this, and we haven't had much luck."
For example, on March 4, Holder finally responded to Sen. Paul, stating that "the U.S. government has not carried out drone strikes in the United States and has no intention of doing so," but evading a clear answer, and thereby reserving the right to do so. Helder wrote:
"The question you have posed is therefore entirely hypothetical, unlikely to occur, and one we hope no President will ever have to confront. 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. Were such an emergency to arise, I would examine the particular facts and circumstances before advising the President on the scope of his authority."
In contrast, today's letter from Holder to Paul was straightforward:
"Dear Senator Paul: It has come to my attention 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."
While being interviewed on Fox News, the Holder letter came in and was read to Sen. Paul, and he exclaimed:
"Hooray! For 13 hours yesterday, we asked him that question, and so there is a result and a victory. Under duress and under public humiliation, the White House will respond and do the right thing... So now, after 13 hours of filibuster, we're proud to announce that the President is not going to kill unarmed Americans on American soil. My next question would be, why did it take so long, why is it so hard? And why would a President so jealously guard power that they're afraid to say this? But I am glad, and I think that answer does answer my question."
In a later statement, Paul said:
"This is a major victory for American civil liberties and ensures the protection of our basic Constitutional rights. We have Separation of Powers to protect our rights... I would like to congratulate my fellow colleagues in both the House and Senate, and thank them for joining me in protecting the rights of due process."