Why Rand Paul Won't Stop Talking

Kristin Roberts
National Journal

Rand Paul took to the Senate floor on Wednesday to (so far successfully) filibuster President Obama’s nomination of John Brennan for CIA director. Why? He wants the White House to rule out killing Americans on U.S. soil without first providing them the due process promised by the Constitution.

Odd. Right?

The U.S. government has killed four Americans that we know about under its sometimes-covert targeted killing program. (One of those four was the actual intended target, officials say.) All of those killings happened outside of the United States and, according to the administration’s legal reasoning, were allowed under the same war authorization Congress provided after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Sure, U.S.-born America-haters who volunteer with al-Qaida and become operational terrorist leaders are fair game, most folks would agree.

But common sense might lead some of those same people to think the White House would easily concede it does not have the right to kill an American in the United States. After all, under its own criteria for adding U.S. citizens to the kill list, the administration says capture of said bad guy must first be deemed infeasible. 

Still, no dice.

For weeks, Paul demanded answers from the Obama administration on whether it believes its targeted-killing program could apply within this country before the senator would allow a vote on Brennan’s nomination. Attorney General Eric Holder--a man who previously has said due process does not equal judicial process--replied with a letter that said simply the U.S. government has not carried out drone strikes in this country and has no intention of doing so.

Oh, and, the administration is reserving the right to kill an American inside the country in an "extraordinary" circumstance, Holder noted. Something on the order of Pearl Harbor or Sept. 11.

The vote on Brennan was supposed to have happened Wednesday, but Paul’s filibuster has at least delayed it.

It’s an irritant to Obama, but many on the Hill think it’s a short-term problem.

While Paul’s not the only one to wonder why the administration won’t say it does not have the right to kill Americans in America--many in Congress have posed the same question--he is one of the very few who seem unwilling to take a long-winded "no comment" for an answer.