In the spirit of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Senator Rand Paul delivered the filibuster speech that was trending worldwide on Twitter on Wednesday. He wanted a direct answer from the White House to this simple question: does the U.S. government have the authority to kill an American citizen with a drone on U.S. soil?
The question may seem a bit strange at first. However, with the federal government greatly expanding their use of unmanned drones in U.S. skies, it is a legitimate question that deserves an answer. The U.S. government has already killed an American citizen with a drone.
Sixteen year old Abdulrahman Al-Awlaki who was born in Denver, Colorado was killed by an armed drone while eating at an outside restaurant in Yemen back in 2011.
He was never convicted of any crime, much less charged and tried for any wrongdoings. It appears that he was not even the intended target of the drone strike—possibly just at the wrong place, at the wrong time.
The federal government has never released any statements and Obama has never answered any questions about the killing of this American-born teenager.
So the U.S. government has killed an American citizen with a drone outside of the country’s borders. Could it happen within U.S. borders?
For many months, Senator Paul tried to get a real answer from Attorney General Eric Holder to no avail. Rand Paul did receive a wishy-washy letter from the Attorney General that tapped danced around the question.
Eric Holder basically said: Yes, the U.S. government can technically kill anyone we want, but it’s a highly unlikely that it will happen on U.S. soil.
Isn’t that reassuring?
Rand Paul wouldn’t take “we can kill you, but probably won’t” for an answer. He began filibustering the nomination of John Brennan for CIA Director just before noon on Wednesday, saying that he would be speaking for the “next few of hours.” A few hours turned into nearly 13 hours, as 14 brave senators joined him throughout the day and tons of supportive tweets kept rolling in.
People from all different political backgrounds united behind Rand Paul on social media. CODE PINK on the far left, FreedomWorks on the right, and millions of Americans united in solitary over our constitutional right to due process.
The possibility of getting assassinated by a remote-controlled flying robot in the sky, if the government just suspects you’re doing something wrong, is unpopular. Who knew?
Not everyone was pleased with Rand Paul’s courageous stand, though. GOP establishment Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain who instead spent the night schmoozing with President Obama mocked Rand Paul for standing up for our constitutional rights.
Senator Graham called Rand Paul’s filibuster “ill-informed.” Senator McCain said “calm down, Senator.”
Senator McCain took it a step further to mock young people that were inspired by Senator Paul’s efforts, saying that “if Mr. Paul wants to be taken seriously he needs to do more than pull political stunts that fire up impressionable libertarian kids."
You mean to tell me that there are college students getting fired up by a Republican senator speaking about the Constitution on C-SPAN? And this is somehow bad, why?
Everyone knows that the Republican Party has a problem attracting young people. Obama captured 66 percent of the youth vote, compared with McCain's 31 percent in 2008. The same thing happened in 2012: young people overwhelmingly voted for Democrats.
The Republican Party desperately needs young energy and enthusiasm. Young libertarian-minded people are passionate about limiting the size and scope of government—and the GOP would be foolish to turn them away.
Perhaps John McCain should listen to his now former colleague Jim DeMint who said, “I’d like to see a Republican Party that embraces a lot of the libertarian ideas.” He added that if the Republican Party does not embrace more libertarian views, “we won’t be able to exist as a party, certainly not a majority party.”
Many young people are rightfully concerned with the loss of our civil liberties. The GOP must embrace this next generation of liberty-minded activists, or it will die. It’s as simple as that.
Despite his 2007 campaign promises, Obama has a horrible civil liberties record that should be condemned. He reauthorized the Patriot Act that allows for warrantless wiretapping of American citizens and signed the National Defense Authorization that allows for the indefinite detention of American citizens without a trial.
When you add up all of Obama’s civil liberties abuses, the questions raised by Rand Paul and millions of Americans on the use of drones are necessary and relevant.
Rand Paul should be applauded for drawing attention to President Obama’s drone program. Wednesday night proved that there is a wing of the GOP that respects the Constitution and promotes policies that are in deep contrast to Obama’s. And there is an establishment GOP wing that would rather wine and dine with Obama.
Julie Borowski is a Policy Analyst at FreedomWorks, an organization dedicated to lower taxes, less government, and more freedom. Her writings on economic policy have appeared in numerous newspapers and online outlets. She is on the Board of Advisors for the Coalition to Reduce Spending and she launched an independent YouTube channel called TokenLibertarianGirl in June 2011.
She was previously selected to be a Charles G. Koch Summer Fellow with the Institute for Humane Studies where she worked at the Center for Competitive Politics. Most recently, she was a government affairs associate at Americans for Tax Reform.
Julie has volunteered for political candidates in Kentucky and in her home state of Maryland. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Frostburg State University in May 2010 where she studied political science, economics and international studies. She is now located in Washington, D.C.