Sunday, March 10, 2013

Beyond Rand Paul's Victory Declaration

Following Rand Paul's filibuster and a terse letter form Attorney General Eric Holder, Rand Paul took a victory lap and issued a statement that said in part:
 “This is a major victory for American civil liberties and ensures the protection of our basic Constitutional rights. We have Separation of Powers to protect our rights. That’s what government was organized to do and that’s what the Constitution was put in place to do,” Sen. Paul said. “I would like to congratulate my fellow colleagues in both the House and Senate and thank them for joining me in protecting the rights of due process.”
I have already pointed out that Will Grigg and Glen Greenwald have different takes on this "victory."  Add to the list of the more sober view, Ryan Goodman, professor of law and co-chairman of the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at New York University. His take is downright chilling as to how the Administration could interpret its letter to Rand. He writes at NYT:
THE Senate confirmed John O. Brennan as director of the Central Intelligence Agency on Thursday after a nearly 13-hour filibuster by the libertarian senator Rand Paul, who before the vote received a somewhat odd letter from the attorney general.

“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 attorney general, Eric H. Holder Jr., wrote to Mr. Paul. “The answer to that question is no.”

The senator, whose filibuster had become a social-media sensation, elating Tea Party members, human-rights groups and pacifists alike, said he was “quite happy with the answer.” But Mr. Holder’s letter raises more questions than it answers — and, indeed, more important and more serious questions than the senator posed.

What, exactly, does the Obama administration mean by “engaged in combat”? The extraordinary secrecy of this White House makes the answer difficult to know. We have some clues, and they are troubling.

If you put together the pieces of publicly available information, it seems that the Obama administration, like the Bush administration before it, has acted with an overly broad definition of what it means to be engaged in combat. Back in 2004, the Pentagon released a list of the types of people it was holding at Guantánamo Bay as “enemy combatants” — a list that included people who were “involved in terrorist financing.”

One could argue that that definition applied solely to prolonged detention, not to targeting for a drone strike. But who’s to say if the administration believes in such a distinction?

American generals in Afghanistan said the laws of war “have been interpreted to allow” American forces to include “drug traffickers with proven links to the insurgency on a kill list,” according to a report released in 2009 by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, then led by John Kerry, now the secretary of state.

The report went on to say that there were about 50 major traffickers “who contribute funds to the insurgency on the target list.” The Pentagon later said that it was “important to clarify that we are targeting terrorists with links to the drug trade, rather than targeting drug traffickers with links to terrorism.”

That statement, however, was not very clarifying, and did not seem to appease NATO allies who raised serious legal concerns about the American targeting program. The explanation soon gave way to more clues, and this time it was not simply a question of who had been placed on a list.

In a 2010 Fox News interview, under pressure to explain whether the Obama administration was any closer to capturing or killing Osama bin Laden, Mr. Kerry’s predecessor, Hillary Rodham Clinton, said that “we have gotten closer because we have been able to kill a number of their trainers, their operational people, their financiers.” That revelation — killing financiers — appears not to have been noticed very widely.

As I have written, sweeping financiers into the group of people who can be killed in armed conflict stretches the laws of war beyond recognition. But this is not the only stretch the Obama administration seems to have made. The administration still hasn’t disavowed its stance, disclosed last May in a New York Times article, that military-age males killed in a strike zone are counted as combatants absent explicit posthumous evidence proving otherwise.

Read the rest here.


  1. It is sad and confusing that the NY Times (appropriately) shows more skepticism about Holder’s statement than do some libertarians.

    I believe it would be helpful to get clarification from Raimondo on his joy for the outcome:

    Raimondo: “In a terse, guarded letter in response to Sen. Paul, Holder has – finally – given a clear "no" to the original question that started this whole brouhaha: does the US government have the legal right to kill Americans on American soil without trial or due process? Clearly a victory for the Kentucky Kid – and perhaps an augury of victories to come.”

    This isn’t the question Holder answered, and it isn’t Holder’s answer as it wasn’t the question. One can say there was victory in the act of the filibuster, but there was no victory in the outcome, as Raimondo is claiming here.

    I recall somewhere than Ron Paul supporters (among others) were on some government potential terrorist watch list. I find no “victory” in Holder’s statement.

  2. Let Rand Paul lead his pathetic little victory parade, but eventually he will have to circle back to sit down and reflect on what he and his remnant really won, nothing. When you assume you have won anything of note when the U.S. is in its twelfth year of a Declared State of Emergency, which has to be reauthorized every year, is to live in intellectual poverty.

    Rand Paul won nothing, but when you and your remnant are an inch deep and a mile wide, what do you expect? The entire Paulian empire is built on a dung heap of nepotism, which is one hell of a foundation to build a bridge to liberty upon.

    A world class marionette like Rand Paul will move and give voice to the dark intentions of his Neocon string-pullers when it comes to a strike on Iran, and his intellectual tadpole following will soon feel that they were betrayed again by a member of the Paul clan. The sad thing is that most of his followers will not sense the betrayal until the jack-boot of tyranny is on their necks.

    The more I watch Rand Paul's followers, the more I am convinced they have no memory to speak of, their ability to remember that the Republican party has voted in the affirmative for every fascist piece of legislation over the past 45 years seems to escape their recall. Yet they keep going back to the Republican party like a dog who wants to lap up what he just left behind in the gutter.

  3. Excellent response to the anemic effort by Rand Paul to deceive those of us who think. Keep writing Switchblade. The torch of Liberty needs to be reignited. The flame which burns brighter on the fuel of impassioned speech will warm the courage of those who understand; Given time and the hand of Providence, the resulting inferno can melt the chains of tyranny.