|Rand Paul: official portrait.|
Late last week, as a rare March blizzard began to take our nation’s capital by storm, an ophthalmologist from Kentucky directed all eyes to C-Span, where he was busy making history. The ophthalmologist, Senator Rand Paul, managed to remain standing for nearly 13 hours in protest over President Obama’s choice to head the CIA in his second administration. While Paul admitted the inevitable futility of the filibuster, he remained firm in his positing of a single, previously unanswered question: “Does the President have the authority to use a drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil?” We commend the senator for raising the alarm on this important aspect of civil liberty, and we fault the administration for its intransigence in clarifying its own policies.
While John O. Brennan faced little trouble in his confirmation as Director of the CIA the day after Paul’s showmanship, Senator Paul did ultimately score a victory for his cause. Throughout his marathon of a speech, Paul read passages from previous letters sent to him by the attorney general addressing his primary query. The cavalier and wholly unsatisfying answer was, namely, that the question is laughable in and of itself—the president has never had to ponder targeting an American on U.S. soil. Laudably, Paul was unhappy with this response and stood his ground until he could get an unambiguous “yes” or “no” from the Justice Department. While he ultimately capitulated before such a memorandum arrived, the next day Attorney General Eric Holder backtracked from his previous position that American citizens at home could be targeted in “extraordinary circumstances.” His new, clarified stance is that “the answer to [Senator Paul’s] question is no.”