March 8, 2013 Rand Paul and many others have been celebrating his "victory" in flushing out the Obama administration regarding the use of military drones within the continental U.S. Following his 13 hour filibuster this week, and after asking Holder the same question "for about six weeks" as he told Greta Van Susteren last night, he finally got his answer in a short, curt, snotty letter from Holder yesterday:
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.
It was not an "additional" question. In fact it is not the question Paul asked at all. Paul did not specify Americans "engaged in combat on American soil." He asked a more general question about attacks against any Americans on U.S. soil.
He needn't have bothered. To this question he had already gotten an answer from Holder, who had said in earlier testimony that he could conceive of scenarios in which the President could have authority to kill Americans on American soil. Perhaps Paul just wanted clarification.
Senator John McCain, in a rather crude response to Paul yesterday, backed up Holder and the President, stating explicitly and more clearly than Holder ever did:
As a hypothetical constitutional matter, Mr. Holder acknowledged the President can authorize the use of lethal military force within the U.S. territory... The U.S. government cannot randomly target American citizens on U.S. soil or anywhere else...What it can do, under the laws of war, is target an enemy combatant, anywhere, at any time, including on U.S. soil. This includes a U.S. citizen who is also an enemy combatant...
As unpopular as it may sound, McCain is probably correct about this. In a shooting war which extends into U.S. territory it would be reasonable to have such authority.
The real problem lies with the definition of "enemy combatant." This administration has made no secret of its hatred for many Americans and its unfettered admiration for some of the world's worst despots, Mao, Castro and Chavez, to name but a few.
Holder's characterization of America as a "nation of cowards," is instructive. And we have seen the Department of Homeland Security labeling tea partiers, ex-military members, gun owners, constitutional and religious conservatives, and pretty much anyone else Obama dislikes, "potential domestic terrorists" in official DHS documents. We have seen federal law enforcement firearms training begin to emphasize "non-traditional" targets, like pregnant women, children and old men. Finally, the military has leaked "wargame" scenarios in which tea partiers take over towns and force military action.
In this situation of rampant mistrust for our government and its current leaders, Paul's question was a rare articulation of legitimate national concerns. Holder's answer, and McCain's mindless defense of him, was certainly grounds for grave concern.