Yesterday, Senator Rand Paul filibustered President Barack Obama’s nomination of John Brennan to head the CIA. Sounds like a normal day in the Senate, right? Wrong. Paul brought back the old-school ‘talking filibuster’ and spoke for nearly thirteen hours to protest the Obama administration’s controversial use of drones in targeted killings. You see, the junior senator from Kentucky sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder requesting clarification on the use of drones in targeted attacks against American non-combatants, and received an ambiguous reply that did not expressly rule out that option.
This sounds like something out of George Orwell’s 1984, but it’s a clear continuation of the Bush-era Patriot Act and the abrogation of civil liberties by our Constitutional lawyer-cum-president. Senator Paul himself invoked Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland to characterize the administration’s stance:
They say Lewis Carroll is fiction. Alice never fell down a rabbit hole and the White Queen’s caustic judgments are not really a threat to your security. Or has America the Beautiful become Alice’s Wonderland? …
‘No, no,’ said the queen. ‘Sentence first; Verdict afterwards.’
‘Stuff and nonsense,’ Alice said widely — loudly. ‘The idea of having the sentence first?’
‘Hold your tongue,’ said the queen, turning purple.
‘I won’t,’ said Alice.
‘Release the drones,’ said the queen, as she shouted at the top of her voice.
During the filibuster, Paul was joined by twelve Republicans and 1 Democrat. This is a disgrace. Why wasn’t there more support for our Constitutional rights from senators from BOTH sides of the aisle? Civil liberties should be non-partisan issues. The erosion of rights to privacy, probable cause, due process, and trial by jury did not begin with President Obama, but he has done little to abate it. The president re-authorized the “roving wiretaps,” warrantless wiretapping, and e-mail monitoring of terrorism suspects under both the Patriot Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Most significantly, his National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2012 entitles the U.S. government to indefinitely detain American citizens without warrant or charge. Issuing a signing statement saying you have this power but won’t use it doesn’t make you a civil rights warrior… It makes you a coward.
Both Eric Holder and White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said today that President Obama does not have the authority to order drone strikes against Americans on American soil. This assertion is cold comfort in the increasingly Orwellian, or perhaps Carrollian, surveillance state in which we now live. Have we fallen down the rabbit hole when it comes to Big Brother? Who will lead the charge in reclaiming our Constitutional rights? Be a patriot, and #StandWithRand.