Rand Paul's filibuster
“When people talk about a ‘battlefield America’,” Paul said, around hour four, Americans should “realize they’re telling you your Bill of Rights don’t apply.” That is a consequence of the September 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force that did not bound a war against al-Qaida to specific areas of the planet. “We can’t have perpetual war. We can’t have a war with no temporal limits,” Paul said.
This is actually something of a radical proposition. When House Republicans attempted to revisit the far-reaching authorization in 2011, chief Pentagon attorney Jeh Johnson conveyed the Obama administration’s objections. Of course, many, many Republicans have been content with what the Bush administration used to call a “Long War” with no foreseeable or obvious end. And shortly before leaving office in December, Johnson himself objected to a perpetual war, but did so gingerly, and only after arguing that the government had the power to hold detainees from that war even after that war someday ends.
Paul sometimes seemed to object to the specific platform of drones used against Americans more than it did the platform-independent subject of targeted killing. But Paul actually centered his long monologue on the expansive legal claims implied by targeting Americans for due-process-free execution: “If you get on a kill list, it’s kind of hard to complain… If you’re accused of a crime, I guess that’s it. … I don’t want a politician deciding my innocence or guilt.” Paul threw in criticisms of other aspects of the war on terrorism beyond targeted killing, from widespread surveillance of Americans to the abuses of state/Homeland Security intelligence “fusion centers.”
I think the Kafkaesque nature of the no-fly list should be enough to persuade people that secret lists are generally a bad idea.
For those who are feeling warm and fuzzy about the right wing's newfound concerns about civil liberties, listen to Charles Krauthamer on Fox News declare that he believes that the president is a tyrant, but he would certainly think it was ok if Bush had "taken out" John Walker Lind in a coffee shop somewhere in the US. So I think there may be some confusion about what this means among our brethren on the right.
On the other hand, it's possible that because the Republicans --- with the exception of Paul, who is a true believer --- are opportunistically seizing on this there might be some serious investigation and push-back on these policies. Obama has been worse on the drone war than Bush, but it's only because Bush didn't have the huge drone fleet available to him. They were fully on board, very early. But there's a slim possibility that the Congress could actually make some policy here, if only because the GOP is so secure in its image as tough, terrorist-fighting manly men that they don't have to worry that the voters will punish them for being wimps. They might just do something.
In any case, good for Rand Paul for taking a stand. This is a discussion that I would guess not more than 10% of the public has even heard of until now. Doing a real filibuster to draw attention to it is a smart move and hopefully we'll see a little more awareness of this very important constitutional debate.