Imagine sitting at your local Starbucks restaurant or enjoying drinks at your favorite bar with friends and a drone blows half the place up because President Obama thinks he has the authority to conduct drone military strikes here at home on his own people. Senator Paul Rand Paul tried to put the brakes on President Obama’s “license to kill” obsession by filibustering John Brennan’s CIA nomination March 6, 2013.
That’s right Senator Paul exercised his right as a member of Congress, enshrined in the United States Constitution, to draw attention to a very serious matter. When the Senate was set to vote on John Brennan’s nomination for head of the CIA, Paul led a 13-hour filibuster against the nomination demanding Obama put in writing he would never use drones kill Americans not involved in combat.
Why did Paul take such a bold stand? Attorney General Eric Holder wrote a letter indicating the president has the power to conduct drone strikes on American soil but “has no intention of doing so.” “No intention” isn’t the same as “won’t ever” and Paul rode herd on this administration’s frightening interpretation of its executive war powers.
“You should be charged, you should be imprisoned if they can make the charges stick. But they shouldn’t just drop a Hellfire missile on your café experience,” declared Paul on the Senate floor.
Why is it a big deal? Drones kill innocent people as they obliterate the bad guys. According to a Stanford/New York University report Living Under Drones “from June 2004 to September 2012, drone strikes killed 2,562 - 3,325 people in Pakistan, of whom 474 - 881 were civilians, including 176 children.” The report found the strikes injured another 1,228 - 1,362 individuals. In war zones abroad some level of civilian loss may be acceptable but not here at home. No way. No how.
In its haughty attempt to castigate Paul, the Wall Street Journal noted that under our war laws, the government can “target enemy combatants anywhere, anytime.” A US citizen can be declared an enemy combatant by the President “if he belongs to an entity –a government, say, or a terrorist network like al Qaeda” that is at war with the United States. The Journal and Holder’s interpretation of it’s ability to use drones on Americans here at home versus conventional means of capture, interrogate, find guilty, and punish seems to be in the over-reach zone.