27 February 2013
Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) continually pressed Obama nominee for Central Intelligence Agency Director John Brennan to see if he believed the Federal government has the authority to assassinate American citizens on U.S. soil for simply being suspected of terrorist involvement. His answers were evasive and failed to answer anything. In fact, any Americans awake would have to conclude that the current administration, by being evasive in its answers, does think it has the authority to assassinate citizens on U.S. soil. If not then let them be transparent about it.
“The question that I and many others have asked is not whether the Administration has or intends to carry out drone strikes inside the United States, but whether it believes it has the authority to do so,” wrote Paul in a letter to Brennan which as of today remains unanswered.
Brennan was asked numerous times during confirmation hearings in the Senate just how far the administration can go with executing U.S. citizens, which according to legal opinion from the Obama Department of Justice (how credible is that?) can be done overseas. However, every time the question has been put to him, he dodges it.
A controversial memo was leaked from the DOJ three weeks ago that read in part “The condition that an operational leader present an ‘imminent’ threat of violent attack against the United States does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future,” in order to assassinate American citizens if they are suspected of terrorist activity or being involved with terrorists.
However, Brennan did not limit the scope of such assassinations to the battlefield. The Guardian reports, “Brennan’s answer was that, in essence, there are no geographic limits to this power: “we do not view our authority to use military force against al-Qa’ida and associated forces as being limited to ‘hot’ battlefields like Afghanistan.” He then quoted Attorney General Eric Holder as saying: “neither Congress nor our federal courts has limited the geographic scope of our ability to use force to the current conflict in Afghanistan.”
At one point in the hearings, Brennan was asked, “Could the administration carry out drone strikes inside the United States?”
“This Administration has not carried out drone strikes inside the United States and has no intention of doing so,” he responded.
Sorry that was not the correct answer nor was it even remotely close to the question asked.
But, Brennan is not the only one unwilling to answer the question. Barack Obama will not give a definitive answer on the question. When Obama was asked if drone strikes could be used against U.S. citizens within the U.S., his reply was as evasive as Brennan’s. There “has never been a drone used on an American citizen on American soil,” he said.
The continued secrecy around the drone program continues to be a stumbling block for many of us who value liberty, freedom and law. Why is this such a difficult question to answer? It should be a simply “No.”
“We have this drone war, and the American public has no idea what the rules are, and Congress doesn’t know much more,” said Virginia E. Sloan, president of the Constitution Project, a civil liberties group in Washington. “YouTube appearances and speeches,” she said, referring to the president’s online appearances and officials’ public remarks, “are absolutely no substitute for having the actual memos in hand.”
Elisa Massimino, president of Human Rights First, an advocacy group, said the administration had a long way to go to fulfill its promise of greater openness.
“President Obama and Mr. Brennan have both pledged transparency,” she said. “Let’s see it.”
I think Ms. Massimino has very good point.