Thursday, March 7, 2013

Drone Update

To stop a Senate filibuster on the confirmation of John Brennan as the Director of Central Intelligence, Attorney General Eric Holder answered Rand Paul's latest question on the current administration's view on its power to use drones against citizens:

The interesting thing is just how narrow the question is, and the fact that it offers no indication of the standard of proof to be applied in ascertaining whether some limit applies to stop a proposed drone strike. Given that Holder has previously taken the position that an extra-judicial decision within the Executive branch of government was capable of ascertaining whether an American should be killed for making war against the United States (notwithstanding the Constitution's position on such matters), one wonders just how much security Americans should feel in even the clearest-sounding reply to a question so heavily qualified and lacking in standards. (Not engaged in combat? According to whose allegation? And this limit applies only on American soil?)

Do we have a rule of law, or just the law of the jungle? I don't expect to see neighbors blown from their homes in the near future by drones, but I do expect Americans to hold concern for simultaneous disregard of the fundamental protections the Constitution affords those accused of treason: a fixed standard of proof and a public trial in which a jury decides the truth of the allegations made by the Executive branch. Secret decisions in the Executive to conduct executions based on Executive-branch decisions about the guilt of Americans accused of waging war against the United States are not just against the plain law laid down by every State ratifying the Constitution, but contrary to the American traditions for which we have spilled so much of the blood of our best.

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