Generally speaking I find filibusters to be a waste of time…and I find the paper pushing type to be totally abhorrent. But there are a few times when they serve a specific purpose and surprisingly, I find myself in agreement with Senator Rand Paul on this one!
For nearly 13 hours, Senator Rand Paul held the Senate floor in a good old time traditional filibuster essentially until his bladder gave out. And to his credit he spent nearly all of his time actually talking about the issue at hand instead of reading a phone book or the complete works of Shakespeare.
And the cause he felt was so important that he took up his filibuster. The totally unsatisfactory response from the White House on policy relating to using armed drones in the United States against US Citizens. There are very few Americans who are readily willing to give up their rights to a fair trial, to face their accuser, to habeas corpus, etc…and certainly don’t want to be summarily executed via armed drones here in the US.
So to make his point, Senator Rand held up the vote on the nomination of John Brennan as the new head of the Central Intelligence Agency. Senator Rand brought up some ancient history to make his point, but he made his point in good fashion. Here are some excerpts taken from the NY Times:
Mr. Paul, who opposes Mr. Brennan’s nomination, followed through on his plan to filibuster the confirmation of President Obama’s nominee after receiving a letter this month from Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. that refused to rule out the use of drone strikes within the United States in “extraordinary circumstances” like the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The filibuster started just before noon on Wednesday, with Mr. Paul ostensibly objecting to Mr. Brennan’s nomination. But in fact, Mr. Paul’s main concerns were those of the civil liberties and Constitutional rights, which he said are under attack by the administration’s potential use of unmanned drone strikes on American citizens on United States soil. (By Mr. Paul’s own admission, Mr. Brennan, who as the White House counterterrorism adviser was the chief architect of the largely clandestine drone program, served as a good proxy.)
“What will be the standard for how we kill Americans in America?” Mr. Paul asked at one point. “Could political dissent be part of the standard for drone strikes?”
Referring to Jane Fonda, who went to North Vietnam during the war there to publicly denounce the United States’s presence in the country, Mr. Paul added: “Now, while I’m not a great fan of Jane Fonda, I’m really not so interested in putting her on a drone kill list either.”
Repeatedly, Mr. Paul explained that his true goal was simply to get a response from the administration saying it would not use drone strikes to take out American citizens on United States soil.
This is an incredibly important topic and gets more important every day as the White House continues to expand the use of drones overseas in the ‘War on Terror’. At this point what would prevent a similar escalation here at home in ‘extraordinary circumstances’ which remain wholly undefined.
And as we’ve seen the White House hasn’t been above killing American citizens abroad using drones…several writers here on Blogging Blue have been vocal in opposition following the execution of Anwar al-Awlaki, a US citizen and alleged al Qaeada member – in Yemen in September 2011. It’s time to reign in the use of drones to murder and define their use in war…and it certainly is time to prohibit any idea of similar uses of drones here at home in the United States.
This is probably the only time I will ever say this…but well played Senator Paul!