I’m now confused as to the controversy over domestic drones.
Rand Paul’s concern, in a nutshell, was that the government may blow you up while you eat breakfast because you are, in the government’s opinion, a terrorist. The government will never have to substantiate that opinion to anyone and thus the government can blow up anyone it wants for no reason at all.
The filibuster was brought about because when Paul asked if this was, in fact, the government’s position, he was told that the government believes it has the right to respond with lethal force when attacked. Of course this isn’t what Paul was asking. So he filibustered.
Today he got his answer 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 answer to that question is no”
So there you have it. That’s about as unequivocal as you get. If you aren’t engaged in combat, the President may not kill you. By extension: If you are engaged in combat, he can, but this shouldn’t be even a little bit controversial or surprising. It should be exceedingly obvious. If you crash the gates at Quantico and start shooting, the obviously legitimate result would be for the military to shoot back.
“I’m quite happy with the answer and I’m disappointed it took a month and a half and a root canal to get it,” Paul said.
He couldn’t resist a little jab but that’s fine, he may rightfully declare victory. The administration handled the whole thing rather poorly, and I agree that the drone program overall needs to be subject to a much greater level of scrutiny, oversight, and transparency. I’ll grant that one can be concerned that someone will torture the definition of “engaged in combat” to be “thinking about maybe engaging in combat in the future, possibly”, but the intent of this seems very clear. The administration may not kill you because it feels like it. They never claimed to be able to kill Americans on American soil just for the hell of it, but they refused to explicitly say they couldn’t and that was legitimately concerning. But now they have.
I should add: Kudos to Paul for this. This is what a filibuster is actually for.