Obama’s drone defense: “I know nothing! Nothing!”

Obama knows nothing

Imagine that you’re a Nobel Peace Prize-winning president who presides over a controversial drone program that sneaks into countries that are not at war with America (such as Yemen) and kills Americans who aren’t even terrorists. Your Attorney General has also made it clear that, under certain circumstances, your drone program can kill Americans in America.

Oooh, that’s so not good for your Peace Prize reputation. What do you do? Simple: Deny, deny, deny – but only after you first establish “that the other guy was worse.”

This sounds like a bad joke, but it’s not. According to a Politico report, when Democrat senators approached President Obama about his secretive drone program, he first blamed Dick Cheney:

President Barack Obama’s defense to Democratic senators complaining about how little his administration has told Congress about the legal justifications for his drone policy: Dick Cheney was worse.

And in case favorably comparing himself to Dick Cheney wasn’t enough, Obama added a second defense – he has no idea what’s going on. Okay, he didn’t exactly say that, but he came close. The usually Obama-friendly Politico, reports on Obama’s hands-off approach to raining death on his enemies:

In response to Rockefeller’s critique, Obama said he’s not involved in drafting such memos, the senators told POLITICO.

That was a funny joke when Sergeant Schultz made it in Hogan’s Heroes. It’s less funny coming from our president, especially when one of his re-election poses was that he was a stone-cold killer who personally selected which terrorist enemies would live and which would die.

Less than a year ago, President Obama told a very different story to the New York Times:

This was the enemy, served up in the latest chart from the intelligence agencies: 15 Qaeda suspects in Yemen with Western ties. The mug shots and brief biographies resembled a high school yearbook layout. Several were Americans. Two were teenagers, including a girl who looked even younger than her 17 years.

President Obama, overseeing the regular Tuesday counterterrorism meeting of two dozen security officials in the White House Situation Room, took a moment to study the faces. It was Jan. 19, 2010, the end of a first year in office punctuated by terrorist plots and culminating in a brush with catastrophe over Detroit on Christmas Day, a reminder that a successful attack could derail his presidency. Yet he faced adversaries without uniforms, often indistinguishable from the civilians around them.

***

Mr. Obama is the liberal law professor who campaigned against the Iraq war and torture, and then insisted on approving every new name on an expanding “kill list,” poring over terrorist suspects’ biographies on what one official calls the macabre “baseball cards” of an unconventional war. When a rare opportunity for a drone strike at a top terrorist arises — but his family is with him — it is the president who has reserved to himself the final moral calculation.

Apparently the President is having a hard time finding the polling sweet spot that lies somewhere between presenting himself as a driven, cold-blooded killer or a mindless puppet.

The President’s challenging voyage of self-discovery (Hmmm. Killer or puppet? Puppet or killer?) may explain why his administration has spent two years refusing to hand over to various Congressional Intelligence committees the Legal Counsel memos that his Office of Legal Counsel drafted to justify using force against suspected American terrorists living abroad.

The President’s attitude infects those serving under him in the executive branch. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D. – Vermont) complained that everybody in the White House is weaseling away from responsibility:

Every time I asked the question of various people, the attorney general, the president and others, it’s always somebody else’s department. This is something we’re very serious about — one [opinion] especially this committee may end up subpoenaing if we can’t get it.

Of course, you can’t blame the President and his administration entirely for their decision to play “hide the ball.” Right up until his reelection in November 2012, neither Congressional Democrats nor the mainstream media were looking very hard into anything he did, and they gave him a pass every time he ignored the rules. The Democrats established a precedent and now they have to live with the fact that they’ve trained their President to use the Bart Simpson “I didn’t do it defense.”

(Written by Bookworm; first posted at Mr. Conservative.)

Rand Paul Defends Constitution – Mounts Filibuster Against Drone Use *UPDATED*

RandFilibuster

It’s an iconic moment in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington: a young, earnest Jimmy Stewart filibusters for hours, to the point of physical collapse, in order to prevent the Senate from passing an utterly corrupt piece of legislation.  Rand Paul took a page from this classic piece of Hollywood Americana and made it real.  As the Washington Times reported:

After years in the shadows, the administration’s secret drone program burst into very public view Wednesday with lawmakers grilling the attorney general over legal justification for targeted killings and Sen. Rand Paul launching an old-style one-man filibuster to demand answers from President Obama.

The Kentucky Republican held the floor for hours, effectively blocking a vote on the nomination of John O. Brennan, whom Mr. Obama has tapped to be CIA director. He said he would relent only if the administration publicly vowed not to target Americans on U.S. soil.

As Paul’s filibuster picked up speed, private emails, tweets, and Facebook posts flooded Mr. Conservative’s airways.  By the end of Paul’s epic 12 hour and 50 minute filibuster, which included reading from Alice in Wonderland, the verdict was in:

“History is being made.  Are you watching?” — private email

“I stand with Rand. What a country!” — Facebook post

“Rand Paul is starting to look like an important figure in history.” — Facebook post

“Thank you, SenRandPaul for literally standing up for liberty!” — tweet from John Maniscalco ‏@JohnRManiscalco

“Rand Paul. Stud. #StandWithRand” — tweet from Kurt Schlichter ‏@KurtSchlichter

“Rand Paul schooled the Senate and the country tonight.” Laura Ingraham ‏@IngrahamAngle

That sampling of just six highly approving statements comes from a pool of thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of tweets and Facebook posts generated by delighted conservatives.

When Paul began his marathon run on the Senate floor, jaded politicians were unimpressed by what even Republicans viewed as a bit of political showboating.  After three hours, though, Republicans realized that they’d better get on the train or get out of the way.  One after another, they pledged their support to Paul as they made their way to the Senate floor.

Rand Paul

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) was the first to get on board.  “Americans have every reason to be concerned any time the government wants to intrude on life, liberty or prosperity.  We’re talking here about the sanctity of human life.”

Lee was soon joined by Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Pat Toomey (R-Penn.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) and John Barrasso (R-Wyo.).  to his credit, Democrat Ron Wyden (Ore.) added his stamp of approval to Paul’s efforts, saying he “appreciated” that Paul was attempting to draw attention to the issue.

The issue in question is the fact that the Obama administration has given itself permission to use drones on American soil, in situations both real and hypothetical.  In response to a letter Paul sent him asking about drone use on American soil, Attorney General Eric Holder had conceded that there were hypothetical situations in which the executive office would have the right and the power to use a drone attack against an American citizen on American soil:

As members of this Administration have previously indicated, the U.S. government has not carried out drone strikes in the United States and has no intention of doing so. As a policy matter, moreover, we reject the use of military force where well-established law enforcement authorities in this country provide the best means for incapacitating a terrorist threat. . . .

The question you have posed is therefore entirely hypothetical, unlikely to occur, and one we hope no President will ever have to confront. it is possible, I suppose, to imagine an extraordinary circumstances in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws for the President to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States. For example, the President could conceivably have no choice but to authorize the military to use such force if necessary to protect the homeland in the circumstances of a catastrophic attack like the ones suffered on December 7, 1941, and September 11, 2001.

Were such an emergency to arise, I would examine the particular facts and circumstances before advising the President on his scope and authority.

Paul was not appeased by Holder’s statement that the president would use drones to executive people on American soil only in the event of a 9/11 type attack — that is, if the war was brought to America, rather than America heading overseas to a war.  Instead, Paul insisted that said he would only stop his filibuster when the president or Attorney General Eric Holder “put that in words” that they “will not kill non-enemy combatants” inside the United States.

Cliff notes version of drone debate

Although Paul did not get such a statement from either the president or Holder, he did manage to derail Sen. Leader Harry Reid’s plan to go forward with the vote on John Brennan’s nomination to head the CIA. After five hours, Reid gave up and terminated proceedings for the day. He expressed the hope that a vote on Brennan could go forward on Thursday.

Conservatives are very dubious about Brennan’s nomination. During hearings, he showed himself to be both more intelligent and more capable than either John Kerry, who is now Secretary of State, or Chuck Hagel, who is now Secretary of Defense.

Brennan’s loyalties, however, are suspect. He spent many years in Saudi Arabia and seems to be almost too comfortable with that country, to the point that a rumors circulated claiming that he is a convert to Islam. To the extent that conservatives side with Israel, which is a free, and democratic society that strongly supports America, while Brennan’s allegiance seems to be to a series of Middle Eastern tyrannies that are extremely hostile to America, as well as to women, gays, Bahais, Christians, Jews, atheists, etc., having Brennan serve as head of the CIA is suboptimal.

Rand Paul filibusters Nobel Prize winners drone policy

The last time the Senate saw this type of “speaking” filibuster was in 2010 when Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Ver.) held the floor for eight hours protesting legislation aimed at extending the Bush-era tax cuts. In defense of the fact that he lasted almost five hours less than Paul, Sanders is (and was then) a much older man.

It remains to be seen whether Paul’s heroics will have any effect on Brennan’s ultimate nomination (which most Republicans concede will happen whether they like it or not) or on the administration’s putative right to use drones on American soil. What is certain is that he has greatly raised his profile with American conservatives, libertarians and, possibly, undecideds.

Although he hasn’t said so explicitly, Paul has made no secret of the fact that he is eying a presidential run in 2016. He’s tried to position himself as the main Washington D.C. spokesman for Tea Party interests (small government conservativism) and has worked hard to allay conservative Jews’ fears that he shares his father’s (Ron Paul’s) apparent dislike for Israel — a dislike that attracted an unnerving number of neo-Nazi types to Ron Paul’s failed presidential bid.  If Paul is looking to bolster himself in conservative eyes, today’s performance, which challenged an administration that is greedy for executive power and generally expanded government, was a very good start.

It's right for the government to kill American citizens

(Written by Bookworm; originally posted at Mr. Conservative.)

UPDATE: Power Line suggests that there may be more than a little (extreme) libertarian opportunism in Paul’s filibuster. Having read what they have to say. Paul made wonderful points about liberty and small government, but he made those points in the service of the wrong cause.

Sadie has a question about drones — Do you feel lucky?

Sadie sent me an email:

Would you post this and ask your clever and knowledgeable readers to answer mine or Dirty Harry’s question: Well, do you feel Lucky. Well do ya, Punk?

I am not feeling warm and fuzzy. Admission: I am warm enough, but very fuzzy on details about internal drones because DHS hasn’t explained the purchase of 450 million hollow-point bullets (they’re the type of bullets that expand after entry). Show and tell video below.

California is searching for Christopher Dorner, who has murdered 3 people already and has a “kill list”. The administration has a “kill list” as well, which is only geared towards Americans on foreign soil, along with foreign jihadists/Al Qaida. Add to the mix that Congress approved the use of 30,000 drones by 2020 within our borders.I can see the program’s usefulness in apprehending Dorner, but ….

It’s not as if the electorate was asked if an internal drone program is a good/bad idea. Is it?

The Federal Aviation Administration has finally released a new drone authorization list. This list, released in response to EFF’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit, includes law enforcement agencies and universities across the country, and—for the first time—an Indian tribal agency. In all, the list includes more than 20 new entities over the FAA’s original list, bringing to 81 the total number of public entities that have applied for FAA drone authorizations through October 2012.

The worst thing about those drone strikes is Obama’s moral preening and hypocrisy

There’s been a lot of upset in the conservative blogosphere about Obama’s drone strike policy.  The way the administration phrased it, as “legal,” “ethical,” and “wise,” got a lot of hackles up, especially when Michael Isikoff let slip how little oversight there is — including oversight over decisions to kill American citizens.

A lot of people are very worried about this, because they see a government that feels unfettered by the protections accorded citizens under the Bill of Rights.  The problem, as conservatives see it, isn’t so much what the administration does, but the attitude it has when it does it.  Thus, the administration manifestly refuses to acknowledge that the rights stated in the Bill of Rights are inherent in all citizens and that the government has the burden of proving good cause to implicate or limit those rights in any way.

Instead, in every instance, the Obama administration takes the position that government has the inherent power to impinge upon and limit citizen’s freedoms, or even take their lives, leaving citizens with the burden of proving that the government has overreached.  To the extent that the attitude inverts both the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights, people who care about those documents and the unalienable rights they establish and protect are going to view anything the administration does with a jaundiced eye.

Rusty Shackleford, however, who knows as much about Al Qaeda and other Islamist extremists as anyone else on this earth, tells conservatives not to get too uptight about those American citizens that the Obama administration targets for drone killing.  These people aren’t just any old Americans.  Instead, they are citizens who have deliberately thrown their lot in with al Qaeda, thereby taking upon themselves enemy status:

If you think it’s unconstitutional or immoral to kill a member of a terrorist organization living abroad then you and I have very different readings of the Constitution and very different sets of moral standards.

Moreover, it’s just basic common sense that in warfare you don’t stop to ask the person you’re about to shoot for a copy of their passport. Who gives a rat’s ass if bin Laden was Saudi or if he was born in Colorado?

Please, go read the report. Nowhere in it is there even a smidgen of a hint that drones could be used against Americans … in America.

The memo in question sets up a three tiered test for when it’s okay to kill an American living — and this is a direct quote from the memo — “in a foreign country“.

1) He must be an immanent threat. By immanent, we don’t mean the threat is immediate. What we mean is that the person is involved in operations that will go forward unless he is killed. In other words, we don’t have to wait for a suicide bomber to get on the airplane before we kill him.

2) Capture is infeasible. This means that a terrorist living in France will be treated differently than a terrorist living in Mali. The major difference being that the French police are perfectly capable (assuming they have the backbone) of arresting a suspected terrorist. In the hinterlands of Mali, not so much.

Please read the rest of Rusty’s post here.  It will assuage some of your worries about the administration’s acts.

Having said all that, I still think Obama is a rotten stinker for what he’s doing.  I’m not saying that it’s bad to kill al Qaeda operatives wherever and whenever we find them in a foreign country, and regardless of whether they are American or non-American.  Rather, my view arises because Obama is a hypocrite who hasn’t had the decency to come before the American people and say that he was wrong to malign George Bush and our troops as rabid killers.

Nick Gillespie, who has the true libertarian’s disdain for these killings (and I don’t necessarily agree with him, but I do admire his consistency), perfectly sums up Obama’s disgusting double standards:

There is a darkly comic aspect to this, I suppose: Here’s a president who once taught classes in constitutional law and swore up and down that America doesn’t torture, that he was against “dumb wars” waged by his predecessors, that he was more transparent than a glass of triple-filtered water, and who won a goddamned Nobel Peace Prize! And he turns out to be not just a little iffy when it comes to being constrained in his willingness to break all sorts of rules but downright godawful.

And his main mouthpiece is a former MSM drone whose babyface is quickly turning into a map of wrinkles brought on by working for an administration which has manifestly failed to live up to even the mediocre standards of the previous occupant of the White House.

The same president who sounded all high and mighty about Gitmo and the fact that American troops are “air raiding villages and killing civilians” seems to have no problem with going into Pakistan, a country with which we’re not at war, and, once there, drone raiding villages and killing civilians.

Unlike Gillespie, I believe that the Bush people were doing the right thing in their battle against an amorphous enemy that transcends borders and draws fellow travelers from myriad nations.  In that regard, it’s telling that the Bush administration had so many good things going there that Obama, in one of the few wise acts of his presidency, built upon their original programs.

What’s sickening is that Obama has never retracted his attacks against those Americans who spent so much time during the Bush years defending us and, when he does the same thing (only more so), he has his flunkies announce that, because it’s The Won who’s killing and torturing, it’s suddenly legal, ethical, and wise.  Along these lines, don’t forget that Eric Holder spent almost four years wrecking havoc in the lives of CIA agents who used techniques less bad than those Obama now countenances, and only let them off the hook this past August.

Bottom line:  there are few things more loathsome than someone who yells at you and humiliates you for doing something, then does the same thing himself, and, if you call him upon it, says that the mere fact that it is he who’s doing it, not you, makes it all right.