The conservative editorial page of the Wall Street Journal was unimpressed with the epic 13-hour filibuster waged by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), suggesting in a piece published online Wednesday that the Kentucky libertarian was grandstanding rather than making a legitimate point about the government’s drone program.
“Give Rand Paul credit for theatrical timing. As a snow storm descended on Washington, the Kentucky Republican’s old-fashioned filibuster Wednesday filled the attention void on Twitter and cable TV,” the editorial, published under the headline “Rand Paul’s Drone Rant,” began. “If only his reasoning matched the showmanship.”
Paul’s filibuster of the nomination of John Brennan to lead the CIA stemmed from a letter the senator received from Attorney General Eric Holder on Tuesday. In the letter, Holder wrote that the Obama administration has never executed a drone strike against a U.S. citizen on American soil and has no intention to do so, but conceded that an “extraordinary circumstance” might make the option possible.
The Journal’s edtiorial writers stood by Holder’s position.
This shocked Senator Paul, who invoked the Constitution and Miranda rights. Under current U.S. policy, Mr. Paul mused on the floor, Jane Fonda could have been legally killed by a Hellfire missile during her tour of Communist Hanoi in 1972. A group of noncombatants sitting in public view in Houston may soon be pulverized, he declared.
Calm down, Senator. Mr. Holder is right, even if he doesn’t explain the law very well. The U.S. government cannot randomly target American citizens on U.S. soil or anywhere else. What it can do under the laws of war is target an “enemy combatant” anywhere at anytime, including on U.S. soil. This includes a U.S. citizen who is also an enemy combatant. The President can designate such a combatant if he belongs to an entity—a government, say, or a terrorist network like al Qaeda—that has taken up arms against the United States as part of an internationally recognized armed conflict. That does not include Hanoi Jane.