By Amy Goodman with Denis Moynihan
You could say that a filibuster occurs when a senator drones on and on. The problem with the U.S. Senate was that there were too few senators speaking about drones this week.
President Barack Obama’s controversial nomination of John Brennan as director of the Central Intelligence Agency was held up Wednesday afternoon by a Senate filibuster. The reason: Brennan’s role in targeted killings by drones, and President Obama’s presumed authority to kill U.S. citizens, without any due process, if they pose an “imminent threat.” The effort was led by tea-party Republican Rand Paul of Kentucky, joined by several of his Republican colleagues. Among the Democrats, at the time of this writing, only Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon had joined in the genuine, old-fashioned “talking filibuster,” wherein the activities of the Senate floor are held up by a senator’s speech.
Members of Congress, tasked with oversight of intelligence and military matters, have repeatedly demanded the memoranda from the White House detailing the legal basis for the drone program, only to be repeatedly denied. The nomination of Brennan has opened up the debate, forcing the Obama administration to make nominal gestures of compliance. The answers so far have not satisfied Sen. Paul.
Nearing hour six of his filibuster, Sen. Paul admitted: “I can’t ultimately stop the nomination, but what I can do is try to draw attention to this and try to get an answer ... that would be something if we could get an answer from the president ... if he would say explicitly that noncombatants in America won’t be killed by drones. The reason it has to be answered is because our foreign drone strike program does kill noncombatants. They may argue that they are conspiring or they may someday be combatants, but if that is the same standard that we are going to use in the United States, it is a far different country than I know about.”
The issue of extrajudicial execution of U.S. citizens, whether on U.S. soil or elsewhere, is clearly vital. But also important is the U.S. government’s now-seemingly routine killing of civilians around the world, whether by drone strikes, night raids conducted by special operations forces or other lethal means.