Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) rose in the Senate on Thursday to lambaste Senator Rand Paul’s 13-hour filibuster opposing extra-judicial assassinations of American citizens in the drone war.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) on Wednesday blocked the confirmation vote on President Obama’s nominee for CIA director John Brennan, explaining that the filibuster would continue until the administration said explicitly that targeting American citizens on US soil for death by drone would be unconstitutional.
“I find the question offensive,” Sen. Graham said. “I do not believe that question deserves an answer.”
“Calm down, Senator [Paul],” said McCain, who was dining with President Obama and other top Republicans last night as Paul was filibustering Obama’s foreign policy. “The US government cannot randomly target US citizens.”
Paul had warned that the Obama administration’s loose interpretation of constitutional restrictions on targeted killings could result in American citizens being hit by Hellfire missiles “sitting in a cafe” somewhere.
McCain argued Paul’s hypotheticals bring the debate into the “realm of the ridiculous.” Graham concurred, saying Paul’s “paranoia” only “cheapens the debate.”
But Paul legitimized his hypotheticals by mentioning the fact that current domestic counter-terrorism efforts, like the Department of Homeland Security’s “fusion centers,” have targeted for surveillance Americans entirely uninvolved with terrorism.
A Senate investigation last year found that “when fusion centers did address terrorism,” which was rare, “they sometimes did so in ways that infringed on civil liberties,” the AP reported. “The centers have made headlines for circulating information about Ron Paul supporters, the ACLU, activists on both sides of the abortion debate, war protesters and advocates of gun rights.”
Some of these intelligence centers even investigated Muslim-American community groups and their book recommendations. No evidence of criminal activity was ever found, but the government did store the information, which it is prohibited from doing for First Amendment activities.
The hawkish Senate duo went even further, insisting that the Executive does have the legal authority to kill “enemy combatants” in a time of war, even if they are US citizens.
Their own hypotheticals involved situations in which there is an imminent threat of attack on the US, without acknowledging the Obama administration’s defining away the true meaning of imminence to mean any individual high level officials believe to be a “terrorist,” but who is not necessarily planning or involved in any ongoing or immediate attack.