It’s good enough for Rand Paul:
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney quoted from the letter that Holder sent to Paul today. “Does the president have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on an American soil?” Holder wrote, per Carney. “The answer is no.”
Paul said that was good enough for him. “I’m quite happy with the answer,” he said during a CNN interview. “I’m disappointed it took a month and a half and a root canal to get it, but we did get the answer.”
Carney added that, “if the United States were under attack, there were an imminent threat,” the president has the authority to protect the country from that assault.
But it is not good enough.
Carney invokes “imminent threats.” What does that mean? This administration has already sought and received lawyerly advice (in the Murder Rationalization Paper) that “the threat posed by al-Qa’ida and its associated forces demands a broader concept of imminence in judging when a person continually planning terror attacks presents an imminent threat, making the use of force appropriate.”
If a broader concept of imminence, why not a broader concept of “engaged in combat”? After all, according to the Murder Rationalization Paper “a terrorist ‘war’…is a drawn out, patient, sporadic pattern of attacks.” Who’s to say that the cappuccino-sipping dissident blogging against the state from a café in Seattle is not “engaged in [drawn out, patient, sporadic] combat”?
The lawyerly Murder Rationalization Paper has an answer to that “who’s to say” question: “an informed, high-level official of the U.S. Government.”
I enjoyed watching the filibuster, but I am disappointed in Rand Paul. At the end of the day, his thirteen hours on his feet were nothing more than entertainment. He got a non-answer to his question, and then declared victory: “In response, Paul said Thursday that ‘we’re proud to announce that the president is not going to kill unarmed Americans on American soil.'” (Fox News.)
That’s not what they said. Not at all. The administration still takes the position it took in the Murder Rationalization Paper: that it may kill you if an informed high-level official determines that you are an imminent threat. They do not disclaim the legal authority to do this to anyone anyone—including a U.S. Citizen—anywhere—including in the US—without due process. If the president wants you dead, you are dead.
Where the administration’s lawyers make up new meanings for words to justify tomorrow what yesterday was a murder, it’s hard to imagine an answer should have satisfied Paul. But this is not it.