Sen. Rand Paul dominated the news cycyle with his 13 hour filibuster of the Brennan nomination. Was it worthwhile even though the Brennan nomination will go through anyway? It does bring to light what limits the President has in dealing with terrorists.
This issue is front and center for two reasons. One, the Congress extended the President sweeping powers with little specification under the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF). Second, such wide powers emphasize the importance of character and integrity by the President in exercising discretion as to the necessity of utilizing lethal force.
Sen. Rand Paul has emphasized the potential for abuse of power concerning American citizens. Simply put, President Obama’s track record is a disaster when it comes to character and integrity. Despite claims of the most transparent administration ever, it has been the exact opposite. His attitude toward the Constitution as the bedrock of this country has been apathetic. Hardly the resume one would want for the most powerful person in the world.
To address the first point, Sen Paul may wish to consult with his colleagues in Congress and ask why they don’t revisit the AUMF and perhaps modify the language to reflect the limitations on the President’s authority he wishes for. After all, the reason this President, or any future President, has such latitude on interpreting these authorizations for the use of lethal force is because Congress gave it to them.
Congress may have had the best of intentions when it passed the AUMF in order to give the Commander-in-Chief as many options as possible for dealing with terror threats to our country, but the so-called war on terror is essentially open-ended thus allowing normal wartime protocols in place at all times for as far as one can see. Any administration is going to take full advantage of the leeway provided just as Bush and Obama have done.
So I would disagree with the Senator in his approach. For it to be practical, we would need clarifying policy statements at the onset of each and every administration to cover all possible eventualities. Never happen. Administrations would never pigeon-hole themselves into any corner when taking office.
There is only one solution to this that will satisfy Congress. Modify the AUMF. The AUMF operates under the 1973 War Powers Resolution. It is merely clarifying language for dealing with terrorists. With the likelihood that the war on terror will never cease, Congress needs to change the language concerning how an administration deals with domestic terrorists, detainment, and U.S. citizens on U.S. soil in particular.
The Attorney General, Eric Holder, was his usual tap-dancing self yesterday in his exchange with Sen. Ted Cruz. He is now on record in two distinctly different scenarios concerning American citizens. On the one hand, he finally conceded to Cruz that it would be unconstitutional to take out a terror suspect not posing any “imminent” threat on U.S. soil. Yet, on the other hand, his DOJ white paper made it clear that “imminent” does not mean what one would normally think it to mean.
If you read the white paper, you find that any potential suspect must meet other criteria including a “window of opportunity” and mitigating risk for harming other civilians. Yet, Congress gave the President no hard and fast rules on this. This brings back the character and integrity issue of the POTUS. We’ve all seen Obama attempt to sidestep law and other constraints in order to advance his agenda. Could you count on him to exercise the utmost in restraint when using lethal force on Americans on American soil? Could he be swayed into bending those rules in order to score political points? These are the types of concerns of Sen. Rand Paul.
Holder has already illustrated that no clear answer will be given. Only Congress can change the rules to force any administration to play by a set of rules.
By the way, do you recall when Adm. Mike Mullen declared that our national debt is the largest threat to our national security?
Gee, does that make Ben Bernanke a terrorist? At least helicopter Ben is used to the sound of a drone buzzing overhead.