Thursday, March 07, 2013 4:10 AM
Yesterday, March 6, 2013, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), embarked on a filluster to block the nomination of John Brennan to director of the CIA pending confirmation from the Obama White House that it agrees the president is bound by the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, which guarantees Americans' right to due process, and therefore will never use drones to kill American non-combatants on American soil.
To date, the White House answer is silence.
Here are Paul's opening remarks, which began at 11:47 am, excerpted from the uncorrected transcript to be found at Paul's official website. Paul's dramatic, public, and instructive defense of Constitutional rights against executive overreach is the best thing to have happened to America in a long time.
SEN. PAUL: I rise today to begin to filibuster John Brennan's nomination for the CIA I will speak until I can no longer speak. I will speak as long as it takes, until the alarm is sounded from coast to coast that our Constitution is important, that your rights to trial by jury are precious, that no American should be killed by a drone on American soil without first being charged with a crime, without first being found to be guilty by a court. That Americans could be killed in a cafe in San Francisco or in a restaurant in Houston or at their home in bowling green, Kentucky, is an abomination. It is something that should not and cannot be tolerated in our country. I don't rise to oppose John Brennan's nomination simply for the person. I rise today for the principle. The principle is one that as Americans we have fought long and hard for and to give up on that principle, to give up on the bill of rights, to give up on the Fifth Amendment protection that says that no person shall be held without due process, that no person shall be held for a capital offense without being indicted. This is a precious American tradition and something we should not give up on easily.
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.
Lewis Carroll is fiction, right? When I asked the President, can you kill an American on American soil, it should have been an easy answer. It's an easy question. It should have been a resounding and unequivocal, "no." The President's response? He hasn't killed anyone yet. We're supposed to be comforted by that.
The President says, I haven't killed anyone yet. He goes on to say, and I have no intention of killing Americans. But I might. Is that enough? Are we satisfied by that? Are we so complacent with our rights that we would allow a President to say he might kill Americans? But he will judge the circumstances, he will be the sole arbiter, he will be the sole decider, he will be the executioner in chief if he sees fit. Now, some would say he would never do this. Many people give the President the - you know, they give him consideration, they say he's a good man. I'm not arguing he's not. What I'm arguing is that the law is there and set in place for the day when angels don't rule government. Madison said that the restraint on government was because government will not always be run by angels. This has nothing, absolutely nothing to do with whether the President is a Democrat or a Republican. Were this a Republican President, I'd be here saying exactly the same thing. No one person, no one politician should be allowed to judge the guilt, to charge an individual, to judge the guilt of an individual and to execute an individual. It goes against everything that we fundamentally believe in our country.
This isn't even new to our country. There's 800 years of English law that we found our tradition upon. We founded it upon the Magna Carta from 1215. We founded it upon Morgan from Glamorgan and 725 A.D. We founded upon the Greeks and Romans who had juries. It is not enough to charge someone to say that they are guilty.
Now, some might come to this floor and they might say, "Well, what if we're being attacked on 9/11? What if there are planes flying at the Twin Towers?" Obviously, we repel them. We repel any attack on our country.
If there's a gentleman or a woman with a grenade launcher attacking our buildings or our Capitol, we use lethal force. You don't get due process if you're involved with actively attacking us, our soldiers or our government. You don't get due process if you're overseas in a battle shooting at our soldiers. But that's not what we're talking about. The Wall Street Journal reported and said that the bulk of the drone attacks are signature attacks. They don't even know the name of the person. A line or a caravan is going from a place where we think there are bad people to a place where we think they might commit harm and we kill the caravan, not the person. Is that the standard that we will now use in America? Will we use a standard for killing Americans to be that we thought - killing Americans to be that we thought you were bad, we thought you were coming from a meeting of bad people and you were in a line of traffic and so, therefore, you were fine for the killing? That is the standard we're using overseas. Is that the standard we're going to use here?
I will speak today until the President responds and says no, we won't kill Americans in cafes; no, we won't kill you at home in your bed at night; no, we won't drop bombs on restaurants. Is that so hard? It's amazing that the President will not respond. I've been asking this question for a month. It's like pulling teeth to get the President to respond to anything. And I get no answer.
The President says he hasn't done it yet and I'm to be comforted, you are to be comforted in your home, you are to be comforted in your restaurant, you are to be comforted on-line communicating in your e-mail that the President hasn't killed an American yet on the homeland. He says he hasn't done it yet. He says he has no intention to do so. Hayek said that nothing distinguishes arbitrary government from a government that is run by the whims of the people than the rule of law. The law's an amazingly important thing, an amazingly important protection. And for us to give up on it so easily really doesn't speak well of what our founding fathers fought for, what generation after generation of American soldiers have fought for, what soldiers are fighting for today when they go overseas to fight wars for us. It doesn't speak well of what we're doing here to protect the freedom at home when our soldiers are abroad fighting for us, that we say that our freedom's not precious enough for one person to come down and say, enough's enough, Mr. President. Come clean, come forward and say you will not kill Americans on American soil. The oath of office of the President says that he will, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution. He raises his hand, his right hand, puts his left hand on the bible, and he says, "i will." The President doesn't say, "I intend to if it's convenient." "I intend to, unless circumstances dictate otherwise." The President says, "I will defend the Constitution, I will protect the Constitution." There isn't room for equivocation here, Mr. President.
This is something that is so important, so fundamental to our country that he needs to come forward. When Brennan, whose nomination I am opposing today, was asked directly, "is there any limit to your killing? Is there any geographic limitation to your drone strike program?" Brennan responded and said, no, there is no limitation. So the obvious question would be, if there's no limitation to whom you can kill and where you can kill and there's no due process upon whom you will kill, does that mean you will do it in America? So the Senator from Oregon asked him that question directly in committee. And this so-called champion of transparency, this so-called advocate of some kind of process responded to the senator from Oregon by saying, "I plan to optimize secrecy and optimize transparency." Gobbledygook.
You wer will you kill Americans on American soil? Answer the question. Our laws forbid the CIA From doing that. It should have been an easy question. The 1947 national security act says the CIA Doesn't operate in our country. We have the FBI. We have rules. We have separated powers to protect your rights. That's what government was organized to do. That's what the Constitution was put in place to do. To protect your rights. So when asked, he says, no answer. He says, "I will evade your answer." And by letting him come forward, we let him get away with it. So I have hounded and hounded and hounded, and finally yesterday I get a response from Mr. Brennan, who wishes to be the CIA Chief, and he finally says, I will obey the law. Well, hooray. Good for him. It took a month to get him to admit that he will obey the law. But it's not so simple.
You see, the drone strike program is under the department of defense, so when the CIA Says they're not going to kill you in America, they're not saying the Defense Department won't. So Eric Holder sent a response, the attorney general, and his response says, "haven't killed anyone yet. I don't intend to kill anyone but I might." And he pulls out examples that really aren't under consideration. There is the use of lethal force that can always be repelled. If our country is attacked, the President has the right to defend and protect the country. Nobody questions that. Nobody questions if planes are flying towards the Twin Towers whether they can be repulsed by the military. Nobody questions whether a terrorist with a rocket launcher or a grenade launcher is attacking us, whether they can be repelled. They don't get their day in court. But if you are sitting in a cafeteria in Dearborn, Mich., if you happen to be an Arab-American who has a relative in the Middle East and you communicate with them by e-mail and somebody says, oh, your relative is someone we suspect of being associated with terrorism, is that enough to kill you? For goodness sakes, wouldn't we try to arrest and come to the truth by having a jury and a presentation of the facts on both sides of the issue?
See, the real problem here, one of the things we did a long time ago is we separated the police power from the judicial power. This was an incredibly important first step. We also prevented the military from acting in our country because we didn't want to have a police state. One of the things that we greatly objected to at the British was they were passing out what were called general writs or writs of assistance. These were warrants that allowed them to go into a house but allowed them to go into anyone's house. And so what we did when we wrote our Constitution is we - we made the Constitution, we made the Fourth Amendment specific to the person and the place and the things to be looked for. We didn't like the soldiers going willy-nilly into any house and looking for anything. So we made our Constitution much more specific.
I think this is something we shouldn't give up on so easily. I think that the idea that we can deprive someone of their life without any kind of hearing, essentially allowing a politician. I'm not casting any aspersions on the President. I'm not saying he is a bad person at all, but he is not a judge. He's a politician. He was elected by a majority, but the majority doesn't get to decide who we execute. We have a process for deciding this. We have courts for deciding this, to allow one man to accuse you in secret, you never get notified you have been accused. Your notification is the buzz of the propellers on the drone as it flies overhead in the seconds before you're killed. Is that what we really want from our government? Are we so afraid of terrorism, are we so afraid of terrorists that we're willing to just throw out our rights and our freedoms, things that have been fought for and that we have gotten over the centuries.
At least 800 years if not 1,000 years' worth of protection. Originally, the protections were against a monarch. We feared a monarch. We didn't like having a monarch. We came to this country, so when we set up our presidency, there was a great deal of alarm, there was a great deal of fear over having a king, and so we limited the executive branch. Madison wrote in the Federalist Papers, he said that the Constitution states what history demonstrates, that the executive branch is the branch most prone to war, most likely to go to war, and therefore we - we took that power to declare war and we vested it in the legislature. We broke up the powers. Montesquieu wrote about the checks and balances and the separation of powers. He was somebody who Jefferson looked towards. They separated the powers because there was a chance for abuse of power when power resides in one person. Montesquieu said there can be no liberty when you combine the executive and the legislative. I would say something similar. There can be no liberty when you combine the executive and the judiciary. That's what we're doing here. We're allowing the President to be the accuser in secret and we're allowing him to be the judge and we're allowing him to be the jury. No man should have that power.
We should fear that power. Not because we have to say oh, we fear the current President. It has nothing to do with who the President is. It has nothing to do with whether you're a Republican or Democrat. It has to do with whether or not you fear the consolidation of power, were you - whether you fear power being given to one person, whether they are a Republican or a Democrat. This is not necessarily a right-left issue.