UNOFFICIAL TRANSCRIPT: Hour 6 - Sen. Rand Paul Filibuster of Brennan Nomination
Today, Sen. Rand Paul took to the Senate floor to participate in an active filibuster of President Obama's nominee for director of the Central Intelligence Agency, John Brennan. Sen. Paul's remarks began at 11:47 a.m. ET, and as of this release, he is still participating in the filibuster. Below is video and an unofficial transcript of his remarks between approximately 4:47 p.m.-5:47 p.m. The following links will direct you to hours 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.
Overseas, one of the most famous citizens they killed Anwar al-Awlaki he worked with our enemies I think he could have been tried for treason. I think if I were on the jury, from what I read, I would have voted for his death. The thing is, some kind of process might be helpful. His son, though, 16 years old, was killed two weeks later in a separate drone strike and he was on nobody's list that I know of. They won't respond. But I think the response by the President's spokesman is reprehensible and really should be called out. It is sort of this flippant response that I think shows absolutely no regard for individual rights or for Americans. He said, well, the kid should have chosen a more responsible father.
Think about that. Is that the standard that you wish your government to operate on in America? We got a lot of criminals in our country. We got a lot of bad people. If you happen to be the son of a bad person, is that enough to kill you? The other thing is that people killed overseas that are not the target, they don't call them civilians because they say anybody between the age of 16 and 50 that's a male is a potential combatant. Are we going to use that same standard here in our country? Are we going to use the standard in our country that if you just happen to be a male and you happen to be standing near somebody that we've judged to be a problem, that you're going to go ahead and, oh, I guess that's not even collateral damage. That person was probably a bad person because he was standing close to this person? I think there are different standards for war than there are for within our country. And it's not always going to be perfect, and there is legitimate debate over what the rules should be in a war, where a war is overseas, exactly what happens. And I think good, honest people can disagree on some of that, but what I worry about are the people who say that America is a battlefield. Because when they say America is a battlefield, they say that they want the laws of war to apply here. Which the reverse of that is basically, if you reverse the laws of war, they're talking about martial law is what they're talking about. Law that's acceptable under extreme circumstances.
I don't think what we have in our country right now is a circumstance where you I would accept martial law. But we've already instituted some of the thanks you'll see in other countries under martial law enforcement in Egypt they have indefinite detention. That's their emergency decree that occurred back in the 1950's. And it went on and on -- maybe about 1950's, 1970's. So they were very happy about having martial law. Indefinite detention. Well, you got it last year. The President's response again was inadequate. How did the response -- what did the President say to having indefinite detention in our country? He said, well, I don't intending to use it. With you know, I'd rather have a President who has the chutzpah to not sign the legislation and send it back and say, take it out or I won't sign it. I would have a lot of respect for someone like that. Mr. President, without yielding, I would be happy to entertain a question from the Senator from Texas.
SEN. CORNYN: Mr. President, I wanted to come to the floor to pose a few questions to my colleague from Kentucky. First to say that I admire his fortitude and his willingness to ask appropriate and reasonable questions of the administration on a matter of grave importance. This is no less important than our constitutional government itself. It does not give sole power to the administration to make decisions but recognizes that the Congress is a coequal branch of government, and indeed we have important oversight responsibilities of the department of justice, the department of defense, and there isn't any more delicate and important matter than the limitations placed on the government when it comes to dealing with our own citizens. So I would just -- I'd like to ask the Senator from Kentucky whether he's aware of -- whether he's aware of some of these issues. First of all, shortly after President Obama took office, the holder justice department declassified and released detailed previously top-secret legal memos attempting to explain the legal rationale for the enhanced interrogation program that the central intelligence agency used during the Bush Administration.
Now, these memos were written by the office of legal counsel at the department of justice, which is frequently called the lawyer for the executive branch, who issues those authoritative memos. But President Obama, Eric Holder, presumably, decided they would release those previously classified memos that explain the legal rationale for the enhanced interrogation program. And I would further ask the Senator if he recalls that when the Obama administration made these legal memos, highly classified legal memos public documents, does he remember that the attorney general made some specific comments. He said -- quote -- "we're disclosing these memos consistent with our commitment to the rule of law."
Yet today the same justice department refuses to release to members of Congress, including this Senator, the Senator from Kentucky, and other members who have oversight responsibilities the very same legal rationale, in this case for the drone strikes that the Senator from Kentucky is talking about. So I wanted to ask, first of all, the Senator from Kentucky whether he's -- he believes I've accurately recited the facts but then to ask him whether he sees a double standard here on the part of the Obama-holder justice department, where on one hand they release these legal memos from the office of legal counsel, and in this case instead of releasing the legal rationale for the authority to make drone strikes, they issued what's in essence a white paper, or press release, that was leaked to the news media. So I -- I would ask the Senator from Kentucky to respond.
SEN. PAUL: Mr. President, the question from the Senator from Texas is a very good one and there something seem to be a double standard going on here. There seems to be one standard for, you know, wiretapping of phones or interrogation but seems to be much less of a standard for actually killing. And it seems to be hypocritical and you -- you would wonder why. With regard to releasing the -- the memos on how they come about their process, some of that was leaked. It's always curious to me, it seems almost as if the leaks come on purpose, as if they were intentional, the leaks happen right before a nomination process. I don't know the truth of that but I do think that not only should we get the memos but we -- if there's going to be a drone strike program in America, perhaps we should actually be writing the rules and sending them to the President and that would be our job, not to listen to him on when he's going to do drone strikes in America but actually to spelling out and having an open discussion. Because in America, I don't think that should be a secret how we're going to -- you know, how we're going to go about this in America. So I see no reason not only to get the drone memos and I think it would be more consistent not only with their earlier position, but I think what we should do is really be a part of the process of determining how we go forward with, if we're going to have drone strikes in America, what the rules would be.
SEN. CORNYN: Mr. President, would the Senator yield for another question?
The presiding officer: The Senator from Texas.
SEN. CORNYN: I would just ask further of the Senator from Kentucky, I believe the question that he has asked, whether the President has the power to authorize lethal force such as a drone strike against a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil and without trial is a very clearly stated question and one to which I believe the Senator and the rest of members of Congress are entitled to a very clear answer. I was in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing with the Attorney General this morning when we attempted to ask him on a number of occasions what his answer would be to this question and yet he equivocated, he was ambiguous. He seemed to be ambiguous when a clear answer would serve him just as well, as the point the Senator from Kentucky has made. But I question I have for the Senator is that wouldn't it in all likelihood, the legal rationale or justification issued by the office of legal counsel at the department of justice likely include a discussion which illuminate and elucidate the answer to the Senator's question? In other words, I would assume, without having seen that classified memo, that it would go through a rather lengthy analysis of the hypothetical situations under which these drone strikes might be used and would in all likelihood I think shed some light on and clarify the answer to the Senator's question. Wouldn't that be a reasonable way to answer what is a very straightforward and reasonable question?
SEN. PAUL: Mr. President, one of the things that actually even piecing together what I've heard of some of his testimony, he did finally admit to some things that I think are consistent with what I'm saying. They haven't put it in writing previously. I would think that he could almost take his testimony today where he almost at some point seems to agree that it would be Unconstitutional to kill noncombatants, people not actively engaged in combat. If he would say that, I think he would answer my question basically. Because I've never been talking about people engaged in lethal force. There's always, you know, you really don't get much due process you're engaged in lethal force, lethal force is used against you. So you would think if he would just answer that simple question, similar to what he actually started in the testimony, but they won't give us a succinct answer, or any answer really, and so that's the answer we've been trying to get all along.
SEN. CORNYN: If the Senator would yield for one last question.
The presiding officer: The Senator from -- the Senator from Texas.
SEN. CORNYN: To the Senator's point, last point, I'm reading from a letter -- a letter dated March the 4th from the Attorney General to Senator Paul, where he says -- and I quote -- "the question you have posed is entirely hypothetical, unlikely to occur, and one would hope that no President will ever have to confront." But he goes on to say, in response to Senator Paul's question, "it is entirely" -- or "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."
In other words, to the Senator's point, on one hand he said it would be a hypothetical question, unlikely to occur and one we hope no President would ever have to confront, and then on the other hand he said, it is possible to imagine a scenario under which it would happen. So appearing to say -- to be -- well, cast further lack of clarity on something that should be a straightforward "yes" or "no."
SEN. PAUL: Mr. President, the interesting thing about saying it's hypothetical and it wouldn't happen, I could buy that except for the fact that our foreign drone strike program, a significant amount of the drone strikes are on people not actively engaged in combat. So whether that's right or wrong's another question, but since we already have an example of a significant amount of those not engaged in active combat, it's hard for him to say that this is a rare or unusual, hypothetical thing that could never happen because it seems like it's a big part of the drone program overseas.
SEN. CORNYN: I would -- I said that was my last question, Mr. President. I'd ask the Senator to yield for this will be my last question.
The presiding officer: The Senator from Texas.
SEN. CORNYN: It strikes me, Mr. President, that there is a clear double standard here. The Senator's asked a reasonable question to which he has not gotten a clearance -- a clear answer and one that's clearly within the purview of the united states senate in our oversight capacity for the department of justice and as a coequal branch of government. But on one hand, the Obama-holder justice department not just released a white paper but released previously classified legal memos from the office of legal counsel on the enhanced interrogation program, saying that it was consistent with their commitment to the rule of law. And today, in response to an imminently reasonable request, is giving the Senator from Kentucky what can adequately -- I think appropriately be called the Heisman or stiff-arm and denying him access to that. So I just wanted to come to the floor and -- and make that point and ask those questions and say again I admire the Senator's fortitude and willingness to stand up and -- and challenge the Administration on this -- on this issue. It would be easy to satisfy the Senator's request. He's made that very clear. He is not intending to block a vote on this nomination but he is intending to get the information that he has requested and he's entitled to it.
SEN. PAUL: Mr. President?
The presiding officer: The Senator from Kentucky.
SEN. PAUL: The questions and points the Senator from Texas have made are -- are very good points and it also shows you that we're really not that far apart on trying to finds an answer to this because really there is no ultimate ability of me to stop this nomination. I am already getting tired and I don't know how long I'll be able to do this so I can't ultimately stop the nomination. But what I can do is try to draw attention to this and try to get an answer. That would be something if we could get an answer from the President, and I think we'd all sleep better and feel more comfortable if he would say explicitly that noncombatants in America won't be killed with drones.
The reason it has to be answered is because our foreign drone strike program does kill noncombatants. They may argue that they're conspiring or they may someday be combatants, but if that's the same standard we're going to use in the United States, -- same standard we're going to use in the United States, it's a far different country than I know about. Ours is a country where dissent, vocal dissent, even vehement, vociferous dissent as far as whether our country should go to war, whether our country should raise taxes, lower taxes, we've always allowed a great deal of dissent in our country. But some of the people who we have said we're targeting have been dissenters, probably traitors, too, but they've also been people who've been vocalizing more than they've been shooting anybody. Now, it's not to say you can't be a traitor even if you don't shoot anybody, but if you're going to be accused of treason or being a traitor in the United States, I -- I would think you'd get your day in court probably.
It's particularly troublesome since some of the descriptions of who might be a terrorist are such that, you know, I'd be a little bit concerned about the slippery slope to who is and who terrorist. And I just can't in imagine believe we would do that without an open accusation, without a trial by jury, without verdict. So I think it is important that this discussion go on. And I'm not really ultimately setting the goal that I can stop this nomination. I'm here today to draw attention to a Constitutional principle, to try to get the Administration to admit publicly that they will not kill Americans who are not involved in combat.
But it really doesn't have so much to do with Brennan or with his nomination. It has to do with a constitutional principle. And ultimately Brennan will be approved. He will be the head of the CIA This will be a blip in his nomination process. But I hope people will see it more as an argument for how important our rights are, that really no one, no branch of government, no individual politician should be above that law, should be able to dictate and say what they think the law is. Now, we had some of this even under a Republican President. I was critical of President Bush for saying that he had the ability to interpret the law, he had the ability to put signing statements, which were extensive sometimes, which gave his interpretation of what the law was or what he thought the law was.
So I've been critical of both sides thinking they have more power than they have. Our Founding Fathers were brilliant in the sense that when they separated the powers and had these coequal powers of government, these branches of government, they were somewhat pitted against each other. And by having equal power and being able to judge the power of the other branch, no one branch could accumulate too much power. But in our country, it's been going the other way for a long time. It hasn't been just Democrat Presidents or just Republican Presidents. It's, frankly, been both. For maybe a hundred years or so, power's been gravitating and gravitating and gravitating and going to the presidency. Not just the presidency. When people talk about the bureaucracy, these are people who are within the Executive branch, millions of them.
When we passed Obama care, it was 2,000-some-odd pages. There have been 9,000 pages of regulations written since. Obama care had 1,800 references to the Secretary of Health shall decide at a later date. We gave up that power. We gave up power that should have been ours, that should have been written into the legislation. We gave up that power. And as a consequence, we gave it to the Executive Branch. We gave it to people who, many of them who we call bureaucrats, are unelected. So we gave away power.
It is a struggle and it should be a perpetual struggle. But we shouldn't give in on that struggle and give up that power. So right now there was mention that the President should reveal to us drone memos on how he's making the decisions. We've had some leaks about that but I would go one step further. Not only should the President let Congress know what he's doing, maybe we should tell him what to do.
Maybe the -- maybe the Congress should be setting the rules for how we do drone strikes. Maybe the Congress should be protecting the American people from their government. That sounds, oh, that's terrible protecting you from your government. The Constitution wasn't written to restrain your behavior. It was written to restrain your government's behavior. A lot of people get confused when we talk about religion and the first amendment, but if you read the first amendment, it says, Congress shall make no law." It doesn't say anything about your religious preferences. It is not limit your involvement in government. It is not supposed to limit so much religious soft in government. We have a prayer in the senate every morning. You can't have it in your public school. But we have a prayer every morning. We have the 10 commandments around here, but you can't have it in your local school. I think we kind of got confused on things. It was really about government getting involved in your religion. We didn't want to establish a church. We thought it was a bad idea to have an official church because then the government would be telling the church what to do. But it's really all about the documents that we have protecting you from an overbearing government.
Your government was given a few defined powers, enumerated powers. There are 17-19, depends on what how you want to count them. They're few and defined. But your liberties are many, basically unlimited and undefined. When you read the ninth and tenth amendment, it says that those rights not explicitly given to government are left to the states and the people. They're yours, not to be disparaged. These are important debates we're having.
When Montesquieu talked about the separation of powers and the different checks and balances, he said, there can be no liberty when you combine the Executive and the Legislative. Likewise, I would add to that there can be no liberty when you combine the Executive and the Judiciary. So if you allow the President to tell you that he can have drone strikes on Americans on American soil allowing him to be not only the Executive, you are allowing him to be the Judiciary. If he takes it secret, nobody can object. I remember one time I was complaining to another Senator about these things called suspicious activity reports. Your bank is required to file them on you. In fact if you do a wire transfer and you pay your visa through your bank over the phone, you can be part of a suspicious activity report. If you turn cash into the bank or get cash out of the bank over a certain arrangement you can get a suspicious activity report. But I was concerned about this because there had been 8 million of them filed since 9/11. The Senator's response was, he's never had anybody complain about it. The reason you don't complain is they're secret. They don't tell you they're doing this. So if you get on the kill list, it is a little hard to complain. So we might have a kill list on American citizens and nobody might complain because it's secret. You don't know you're on the list. So I think it is important that we have a big debate, discussion over this. That we let the President know he doesn't get to write all these rules on killing American citizens. The constitution still are applies in our country. The reason this is a big debate is that when you are a in a war, the Constitution doesn't always apply on the battlefield in another country. There is a debate over whether the Constitution is here or whether it extends beyond the border. But a practical matter is we can't enforce the constitution beyond our border. You have sort of consented to your constitution. You sort of consent to your government by voting. We have that arrangement in our country. It doesn't really happen in Mexico or Europe or Afghanistan.
It certainly doesn't happen in the middle of hostilities. But's that's the real danger that's the problem here, that's the rub. This whole thing is about the use of authorizational force that was passed after 9/11 to go to war in Afghanistan. If you had voted on that - you didn't, your leaders did -- but had you voted on that I'm going to war in Afghanistan to get the people who attacked us on 9/11. I was all for it I still think that was something wended to do. We couldn't let people attack us but I don't think you would have thought when you voted for that that you were voting for a worldwide -- that you were voting for a worldwide end that included America as part of the battlefield. That's a real problem here. The Administration, John Brennan who wants to be head of the CIA, Eric holder, head of the Attorney General, they all believe -- and many here believe this also -- that there's no geographic limit to the war. It's not in Afghanistan, they say it's everywhere. But they say "everywhere" includes here. If you don't think you can apply due process in the middle of a war, what happens if they say the war is here? That means you don't get any protection. So you are accused of a crime, that's it. I can't imagine that that's what we want as Americans. I just can't imagine that we would believe are -- or acquiesce or allow the President to say that he's going to make the decisions for us, that basically he would kill noncombatants in America. I frankly think eventually he will admit -- it would be nice if he would admit tonight that he's not going to do it. If anybody has got a phone, give him a call, we'd like to know, we'd like to know an answer. I think it would be appropriate. When the Attorney General came this morning to the Judiciary Committee to answer questions, he was asked this question, can you kill noncombatants if they're sitting and having tea somewhere in America? He kind of we weebled and wobbled and went around the issue. Finally, they said, is it Constitutional or not? Do you think you can do this? Instead of saying, well, we might not, we don't intend to. And it sounds like he finally admits in the end that it is Unconstitutional.
But then why can't we get them to issue a statement? Why can't we get them to say explicitly we're not going to do this? I see no reason -- it would take them five minutes to jot this down on a piece of paper. If they don't intend to do it, why not tell us? When your government won't tell they're not going to do something, they're saying, yes, we have the power. If they will not say no, I will not kill Americans who are not involved in combat here at home, if they cannot tell you that, they are saying yes, they will kill Americans not involved in combat. It is a simple question.
Connor Friedersdorf writes for the Atlantic and he writes, "Does President Obama think that he has the power to kill American citizens on U.S. soil? If he accuses a guy in the Arizona desert or rural Montana of being an al-Qaida terrorist, is it even kosher to send a drone over to blow him up, as was done to people overseas? Is it never okay to drone strike an American citizen to death in America?" It's an easy question. Answering it wouldn't jeopardize national security in any way. So why do Americans -- why does the Obama administration keep officials dodging? Why do they keep dodging the question? When the President was asked this question at Google last week, he said, well, we might have different rules inside the country than outside the country. Well, that's sort of assumes that he thinks he can kill Americans here and he might have different rules, more protections, but he's not going to tell you. He says it's secret. I for one am not very comforted.
When the President says, I haven't killed any Americans yet, and I don't intend to kill any Americans, but I might, that doesn't really confident me so much. I don't think that's strong enough language. The Presidential Oath of Office says, I will preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution. It doesn't say, I intend to. It doesn't say, I intend to preserve if it's convenient -- I intend to preserve, protect, and defend the constitution if it is convenient. In this his memo he says he's only going to kill people if it is infusible. It sound a little bit like it is tough, it is inconvenient. So I'm going to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution as long as it's feasible. It just doesn't really inspire me. Friedersdorf goes on to say, with regard to the President's answer at Google, that he couldn't give a straight answer.
Counterterrorism Advisor John Brennan, whose nomination we're talking about, won't answer either. He finally did answer but only under duress. And his answer was actually appropriate answer. The CIA can't do this in America. The court begs the question because the CIA is not in charge of the drone program, the Department of Defense is. We need an answer from the Department of Defense. And we get an answer from Eric Holder that says they haven't done it yet. They don't intend to do it, but they might. And doesn't say specifically that they won't.
These answers have been out there for a while, and we've been through this and around this and asked for questions, and I think so much of this -- you know, these are simple questions. These are questions that I can't imagine why we can't get an explicit answer unless the answer is no. Unless the answer is they don't want limitations on their power, unless the answer is that they don't want to be constrained by the Constitution, unless their answer is that the Bill of Rights doesn't apply to them when they think it doesn't apply to them. And see, that's the real danger. Eric Holder was asked about this and asked about the Fifth Amendment of he was asked, does it apply? He said, well, it applies when we think it applies. What does that mean? I know it is a debatable question overseas, American citizens, this and that, but I don't think it is a debatable question in our country.
Does the Fifth Amendment apply? I don't know how you can argue the Fifth Amendment does apply. I don't know how you can argue that we have an exception to the bill of roots when we want to. But this is the same President that did argue that to determine when the Senate is in recess because he didn't get a few of his appointees last year, he argued that the Senate was in recess and said he could appoint anybody he wanted and he did. It went to court and the court rebuked him. The court says you don't get to decide all the rules for government. The Senate decides when they're in recess. You decide when you're in recess. But you don't get to decide the rules for the Senate, they struck him down and has he obeyed the ruling? Has he listened to what the court did? Has he been chastised and rebuked by the court?
The people that he appointed illegally are still doge doing that job. All of their decisions are probably ink valid. So for the last two years or year and a half, however long these recess appointments have been out there, all of these decisions are going to be a huge mess. They've made all these decisions and it is going to be uncertain whether the decisions are imping to be valid. All of this happens because for some reason he thinks he has power that he doesn't actually have.
I think there are some analogies to what we're talking about here. One of the things that the rules he said he would adhere to as far as the drone strikes overseas was that there has to be an imminence to the threat. But then his team of lawyers follow up and conclude, well, it has to be imminent but it doesn't have to be immediate. I think only a gaggle of government lawyers could come together and say that imminent doesn't mean immediate. Spencer Akerman wrote in "wired" about this and the title of this is How Obama Transferred an Old Military Concept so He Can Drone Americans.
"Imminent used to mean something in military means, mainly that an adversary had begun preparations for an assault. In order to justify his drone attacks on American citizens, President Obama redefined the concept of imminence to exclude any actual adversary attack." It is important to get that and to register that. He has defined a potential imminent attack to mean that it excludes any actual adversary attack. So you're under imminent attack but there is no attack. I mean, it is a bizarre logic, but it is done to widen what they can, to grant them more power.
Ackerman says, "This is at the heart of the Justice Department's newly leaked white paper." These are these drone memos. It was first reported by NBC news, explaining why a broader concept of imminence trumps traditional Constitutional protections. American citizens enjoy from being killed by their government without due process. It's an especially striking claim when considering that the actual number of American citizens who are senior operational leaders of al-Qaida is a vanishingly small number. As much as Obama talks about rejecting the concept of perpetual war, he's providing and institutionalizing a blueprint for it. This is what we're talking about. Don't think that if you give the President the power to kill Americans that it is a temporary power. The use of authorization of force, they say, has no geographic limit and no temporal limit. There is no end to the war. There is no end to the lessening or abrogation or giving up of your rights. If you give up your rights now, don't expect to get them back.
Ackerman goes on. "Imminence has always been a tricky concept. It used to depend on servable battlefield preparations like tanks on a front or the fueling of fighter jet squadrons. Even under those circumstances, there was little consensus internationally about various wars that we have had in the past. President George w. Bush contended that the U.S. Had to invade Iraq not because the government new Saddam Hussein was about to launch an attack on America but because it didn't." Because it was unknown, because we fear things we don't know, we don't know so we conclude yes and we preemptively attack.
"Bush contended that the uncertainty about Saddam's weapons of mass destruction augmented by 9/11 warnings of shadowy terrorist groups plotting undetectable attacks redefined imminence." So when I say this is not a partisan battle, I'm true to my word. President Bush started this, President Obama is expanding this. The real irony, though, is President Obama ran as the anti-Bush candidate. He ran as the guy with the real moral umbrage at what President Bush was doing and in the end he's taking Presidential power to a new level beyond what President Bush could have ever imagined.
So Bush contended that they could invade because they were uncertain about what Saddam could do. He redefined imminence to mean the absence of dispositive proof, refuting the existence of an unconventional weapons program. He redefined imminence to be the absence of proof that you don't have something. So you have to prove a negative. You have to prove you don't have something or you are an imminent threat. That would be sort of like saying to Mexico prove to us you don't have a nuclear weapon or we're going to bomb Mexico City. It's a bizarre notion of imminence. So Mexico is now an imminent threat to the United States because they are unwilling to prove they don't have a nuclear weapon. You can see the convoluted logic that occurs here.
"When U.S. Troops invaded, they learned that Saddam did not possess what Bush or Condoleezza Rice famously termed 'smoking gun' that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud. The undated justice department white paper summary of a number of still classified legal analyses redefines imminence once again. Al Qaeda leaders are continually planning attacks, the updated white paper says, and so a preemptive attack does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. Persons in interest in the immediate future."
Well, realize what this means. First of all, nobody has got an al-Qaida card. You know, I think we say every terrorist in the world is in al-Qaida because then they have got to prove otherwise. So nobody has got an al-Qaida card. Everybody is in al-Qaida. So we say that unless you can prove that you're not attacking us because we know the history of al-Qaida is to continue to attack us, we can preemptively attack you. But now we're talking about bringing that kind of gobbledygook, jumbled logic to the United States, are these going to be the standards by which we kill Americans? Ackerman goes on, "for an adversary attack to be imminent and a preemptive U.S. response justified, U.S. Officials need only incorporate considerations of the relevant window of opportunity, the possibility of reducing collateral damage and the likelihood of heading off future disastrous attacks on America."
So if we say al-Qaida is always attacking us and we say you're part of al-Qaida, then we can kill you, but the thing is that that's an accusation. If you are a U.S. citizen and you live in San Francisco or Houston or Seattle and someone says you are a member of al-Qaida, shouldn't you get a chance to defend yourself? Shouldn't you get to go to court? Shouldn't you get a lawyer? Are these not things that we would want in our country? Ackerman goes on. He says "there is a subtlety at work in the justice department framework. It takes imminence out of the context of something an enemy does and places it in the context of a policymaker's epistemic limitations."
We are not looking to see if someone has a rocket launcher on their shoulder. We are saying because we think that these people don't like us and will continue to attack us that we can preemptively kill them. Realize that this kind of logic is being used overseas, and that's debatable, but now they are going to bring this logic to America. So when you read stuff like this that imminence is out of the equation and in its place we're going to put a policymaker's epistemic limitations or estimations, that's how we're going to decide who is going to be killed in America? All we know is what have in the foreign drone program. We have no evidence yet because no one has told us that -- they just told us they haven't killed anyone yet, they don't intend to but they might, but they haven't told us what the rules are that they are going to use in this context, what rules are going to be used in America. If you're going to kill noncombatants, people eating dinner in America, there have to be some rules. Does the Constitution apply?
But when Eric Holder was asked about the Fifth Amendment, he says the Fifth Amendment applies when they think it applies. He says the executive branch is very careful and they are very conscious of the Fifth Amendment and they do try to apply the Fifth Amendment when they can. It's a different story if you're talking about a war overseas and you're talking about people who live in our country. You don't get the option of determining when the Fifth Amendment applies. Ackerman goes on to say "if there is a reasonable debate over what imminence means in the era of terrorism and what standards ought to be accepted for defining it as an international norm, this framework where they talk about that they are thinking about what the terrorist is doing rather than what the terrorist is doing basically preempts the whole idea of determining or trying to discuss or figure out what imminence really means."
Ackerman goes on, "all that matters to justify a drone attack is for the U.S. to recognize that it can't be all knowing," so interestingly, it's not intelligence that drives the attack. It's you saying I don't know but I am worried that these people do attack us continuously, so by me not knowing their plans, that is a justification for an attack. Realize that could be the standard in the United States. "It's the logical equivalent of the CIA's signature strike which target anonymous military age males in areas where terrorists operate." This should be the thing that should just scare the you know what out of you. If we are killing people overseas who we don't know their name because we think they are in a caravan going from a place where we think there are bad people to another place where there are bad people, that's a fairly loose standard.
So let's say there are people going from a Constitution party meeting to a libertarian party meeting. Both these groups don't like big government. They hate big government. They are opposed to government. They are nonviolent as far as I know but they were on the fusion list for potential terrorists. Are we going to kill people in a caravan going from one meeting to the next? Are we going to have to name the person we kill in the United States? You say that's absurd. We would never do that. What about whose phone we tapped. Do we have to name that person? Used to be the requirement. It's gotten less so over time. We have gotten to the point where the Fourth Amendment protections to name the person, place and what you want to look at have become looser over time. So I think it's a legitimate question. If you're going to target Americans on American soil, are you going to name them first? Are you going to tell us who is on the list? The list overseas is secret, so the question is the list going to be secret in the United States? How do you get your due process if you don't know you're on the list? It's a little bit late after the drone attack to say 'hey, it wasn't me, I really didn't mean what I said in that email. I shouldn't have made that comment online.'
Some liberals have had a double standard on this and haven't been very good. Some have been more honest than the President in their criticism of being hypocritical. The President seemed concerned at one time about warrants for wiretaps. He seemed to be concerned about Americans and torture. He seems to have lost a little bit of that when we talk about whether or not to kill Americans on American soil. Eugene Robinson who I consider to be a liberal pundit, writes in the San Antonio review news. It's called Judicial Review Needed for Drone Hit Citizens. It begins this way. "If George W. Bush had told us that the war on terror gave him the right to execute an American citizen overseas with a missile fired from a drone aircraft without due process or judicial review, I would have gone ballistic."
These are Eugene Robinson's words. If he had heard this about George Bush, he would have gone ballistic. And to his credit, "he says it makes no difference that the President making this chilling claim is Barrack Obama." What's wrong is wrong. Robinson goes on to say "the moral and ethical questions posed by the advent of drone warfare are painfully complex. We had better start working out some answers because, as an administration spokesman told me recently, drone attacks are the new normal." In the ongoing struggle against terrorist groups such as al-Qaida, these attacks have become normal. They have become commonplace. They have become the rule rather than the exception. But at least Eugene Robinson is someone who is consistent in his application of criticism. He says he would have gone ballistic had George W. Bush done exactly what President Obama is doing, and his response is it makes no difference that the President making this chilling claim is Barrack Obama. What's wrong is wrong.
The question of when we get due process, whether or not it applies to you here or overseas is a big question, but under our concept of government, it's not a question that should be left up to one branch of government. You know, should one branch of government get to decide that you don't get due process? That the Fifth Amendment doesn't decide you. This is an incredibly important question. John Brennan and the nomination today pale in comparison to that question. Does the President alone unilaterally get to decide whether the Fifth Amendment applies to you, or can he say that he is going to secretly accuse you of a crime and yet the Fifth Amendment doesn't apply to you? Now, this is worrisome because the Attorney General has been asked about the applicability of the Fifth Amendment to the drone program. He said the Fifth Amendment applies when they think it applies. He says they try to give some kind of process. It's not due process. Due process involves a jury and a judge and a public trial and an accusation. By process, they mean they get together and look at a PowerPoint presentation, they go through some flash cards and they decide who they're going to kill. That is the process. Now, they may say oh, you're demeaning the process by treating it flippantly, but whether they are serious or not about the process, is that the process you want for someone in America?
Do you want in America for the process for you being accused of a crime to be a PowerPoint presentation by one branch of government; maybe in a political party you're part of, maybe in a political party you're not a part of? There are things in politics that are partisan. I don't think I would want Americans to be subject to any partisanship with determining whether you get the Fifth Amendment, whether you get a jury trial. I can't imagine anybody would. I don't care whether it's a Republican or Democrat. I don't want a politician deciding my innocence or guilt. I mean, it's as simple as that.
The President should say unequivocally, we're not going to kill noncombatants, we're not going to do PowerPoint presentations in the oval office on Tuesdays, you know, we're not going to have terrorist Tuesdays for Americans. He should say that. I mean, I don't think it's that hard. It's an easy question to the President. Mr. President, are you going to have terrorist Tuesdays for Americans? Are you going to put flash cards of Americans up and pass them around the table in the oval office with pictures of Americans on them and decide who's going to die and who's going to live. Are you going to publicly charge people or are you going to secretly charge people? Are you going to have any kind of trial or any kind of representation, does anybody get a chance to say, 'hey, it wasn't me, I didn't do it?' Does anybody get a chance to represent or have representation?
This is an article that we found interesting also by Noah Shactman. This was also printed in "Wired." It's called U.S. Drones can now Kill Joe Schmoe Militants in Yemen. This is not quite about the domestic issue so much and a little more about the foreign issue, but there is a linkage between the foreign drone attacks and what will become the domestic drone attacks. Why? Because that's the only drone attacks we know and we've not been told that there will be American plan for killing Americans and a foreign plan for killing Americans or foreigners overseas. We haven't been told that. We haven't been told anything. We've been told to go sit in a corner, including the Senate, including the Congress, sit down and be quiet. They've got a process, they've got a PowerPoint presentation, they've got flash cards. I don't think that's adequate.
Noah Shactman writes in "Wired," he says, "in September, American-born militant Anwar al -Awlaki was killed in a U.S. Drone strike in Yemen. In the seven months then, the al-Qaida affiliate there has grown in power, influence and lethality. The American solution? Authorize more drone attacks." Kind of brings me back to that quote from the CIA Agent. He said, "drone attacks are like a lawn mower. When you quit mowing the lawn, the terrorists come back. They sometimes maybe more numerous." The question is, you have to always say, can you kill them all? You know, can you kill every terrorist in the world? Or for every terrorist you kill, maybe three or four pop up, maybe ten pop up. What happens to the families of people who happen to be the ones we made mistakes on or happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time? I know the President, his spokesman, found it cute to say, "oh, they should have chosen better parents. They should have chosen a more responsible parents." I don't that endearing or cute. I find that really reprehensible to say that's the standard. You have to ask the question, is that going to be the standard in the United States? Are we going to kill people because they're related to bad people? And to flippantly say, should have chosen better parents after we kill a 16-year-old?
Shactman goes on to write, "the American solution authorized more drone attacks and not just against well-known extremists like al -Awlaki, but against faceless, nameless low-level terrorists as well. A relentless campaign of unmanned airstrikes has significantly weakened al-Qaida's central leadership. In Pakistan and in Afghanistan. You know, I'm not saying that we shouldn't use drones. I'm not saying that they're not a valuable weapon that's helped us to decimate our enemies. I'm just saying that it's different in a war zone and in our country. And if the President can't acknowledge that being in battle somewhere is different than walking down the street in Washington or Baltimore or Philadelphia, if he can't acknowledge that there's a distinct difference, it's beyond me how we can let him get away with that.
"Militants that were chosen for these drone strikes or for robotic elimination were based solely on their intelligence signatures, their behavior, as captured by wiretaps, overhead surveillance and local informants." So the people that are to be killed in these drone strikes -- and this is largely in the tribal areas in Pakistan -- we don't know their names. We're targeting people whom we do not know their names, we cannot really know much about them if we don't know their names. We're targeting themselves by their signatures, where they go, who they visit. Well, probably inevitably the milk man's got to go to the terrorist camp, too, or the doctor as well.
So maybe they're complicit but some people who may not be quite the people we think we're after are in the caravan going from city to city. Maybe you're in the local food distribution business and you make good money selling it. But the question is, whether or not that's the kind of standard you'd like to have in America, whether or not a signature strike would be acceptable in America. These are questions that ought to be asked and the President ought to answer. These people are being targeted by their signature. Their behavior is captured by wiretaps, overhead surveillance and local informants.
Schactman goes on to say, "a similar approach might not work in this case, however. In Yemen," where we have a lot of drone strikes, he says, "every Yemeni is armed." It's going to be kind of hard to tell whose friend and foe and they're all armed and they're all fighting and they're all mad at each other. So how do they differentiate between suspected militants and armed Yemenis that are armed on our side?
Schachtman goes to say, "what's more, al-Qaida in the Arabian peninsula, the Yemeni affiliate of the terror collective, is joined at the hip with an insurgency largely focused on toppling the local government." Another official informed the Washington post. So there's a very real risk that America is being perceived as taking sides in a civil war in Yemen. The Yemeni drone campaign, actually two separate efforts run by the CIA and the military's joint special operations command will still be more tightly restricted than the Pakistani drone war at its peak. Potential targets need to be seen or heard doing something that indicates that they are plotting against the west. Or are high up the militant hierarchy. You don't necessarily need to know the guy's name, you don't have to have a ten-sheet dossier on him. But you have to know the activities of this person, what he's been engaged in, said one official.
Gregory Johnson, a Yemen specialist at Princeton, believes that these signature strikes, or something an awful lot like them, have actually been going on for quite a while in Yemen. He goes on to say that he thinks al -Awlaki's son was killed just a month after his dad in a signature strike. He says that he thinks there's been 13 such attacks in Yemen in 2012. Now, when you talk to people around here, they'll just say, oh, there are no signature strikes. What are you supposed to believe? A lot of people are saying they have evidence and have heard there are signature strikes. Those in power, who have the secrets, say, "oh, we're not." It's hard to know what to believe. I think one thing that is easy to understand, though, is that I can't imagine we would allow such a standard in the United States, where we don't name who we're killing and that we kill people involved in a caravan. I would think it should be pretty easy for the President to say, there will be no signature strikes in America.
Schactman goes on to say that "many of these strikes have hit lower-level militants, not top terror names. This authorization only makes targeted killings legally and bureaucratically kosher. Despite the increased pace of strikes, though, 13 attacks are more than there were in all of 2011 on al-Qaida in the Arabian peninsula. In fact, White House Counterterrorism Advisor John Brennan last week called it "the terror group's most active operational franchise." All of which leads Micah Zinco at the Council for Foreign Relations to wonder, where this drone campaign is going. "By any commonsense definition, these vast targeted killings should be characterized as America's third war since 9/11. Unlike Iraq and Afghanistan, where government agencies acted according to articulated strategies, Congressional hearings and press conferences provided some oversight and time lines explicitly stated when the U.S. combat role would end. The third war Orwellian in its lack of cogent strategy, transparency and end date. Since these attacks are covert, the administration will offer no public defense. But it begs CIA Director Petraeus' haunting question at the onset of the Iraq war. Petraeus asked: Tell me how this ends.'
That's a question I have for the President: How does the war end? How do we win? How do we declare victory and when will the war end? The problem is, is that we have come up with a scheme that basically has no limitations, no geographic limitations on where the war's fought. It's hard to defeat an enemy if the entire war is the battlefield. That is a problem with determining victory. It's a problem with ultimately coming home is the other problem with having no geographic limitations to this is saying that war is here, you know, that war is in America and that the battlefield here at home is one that we're going to have rules or the laws of war are going to apply in your everyday life.
The center for Constitutional rights has taken a position and has been concerned and this was before we were talking about drone strikes in America. The center for Constitutional rights has been concerned even about American citizen overseas. On September 30, they put out this release. They said, "today, in response to the news that a missile attack by an American drone attack has killed U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki the center for Constitutional rights, which had previously brought a challenge in federal court, to the legality of the authorization to target al-Awlaki in Yemen, released the following statement." This is from the center for Constitutional rights. "The assassination of al-Awlaki by American drone attacks is the latest of many affronts to domestic and international law. The targeted assassination program that started under Bush and was expanded under Obama essentially grants the executive the power to kill any U.S. citizen deemed to be a threat.