Due Process

Rand Paul, Tea Party Senators Stand Strong for the Constitution in Historic Filibuster

Rand Paul

“Epic,” “inspirational,” and “historic” are three words that best describe what I watched transpire on the floor of the United States Senate yesterday. At 11:47am, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) began his filibuster of John Brennan, President Barack Obama’s nominee to lead the Central Intelligence Agency, largely due to the lack of transparency from the Obama Administration on its drone program — specifically the targeted killing of Americans inside the borders of the United States.

The reasons that this gained so much interest was because it was an actual filibuster. This wasn’t a situation where Brennan couldn’t get 60 votes for cloture. Sen. Paul performed an old school filibuster, something that has become all too rare.

There was also another point that made this filibuster unique — Sen. Paul, along with several of his colleagues, spent nearly 13 hours talking substantive policy. There was no reading from a phone book or any other manner of time-buying tricks. Sen. Paul and others spent their time relaying a very pointed message about the Constitution, limits on executive power, and civil liberties.

For nearly 13 hours, Sen. Paul gave one of the most eloquent defenses of the Constitution that I’ve ever witnessed. He was joined at various times by Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Ted Cruz (R-TX), both of whom spoke at length on the constitutional concerns over the policy.

UPDATE: Rand Paul is Filibustering Obama’s CIA Nominee

Rand Paul's filibusters John Brennan

This post has been updated. Scroll down to view the latest.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who has become the fiercest of President Obama’s drone program, is currently in the middle of a traditional filibuster against the nomination of John Brennan. He been at it for a just over two hours, having started at 11:47am.

You can watch it live here.

Brennan, who was nominated by President Obama to serve as director of the CIA, was asked some very direct questions by Sen. Paul over the drones program. Sen. Paul wanted to know whether or not the White House could perhaps target American citizens who are merely suspected terrorist activities inside the borders of the United States.

Attorney General Eric Holder responded to the questions raised by Sen. Paul about the drone program. “The question you have posed is therefore entirely hypothetical, unlikely to occur, and one we hope no president will ever have to confront,” Holder wrote. “It is possible, I suppose, to imagine an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the President to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States.”

Sen. Paul recognizes that he won’t be able to keep going for a prolonged period of time, but he is using the time to highlight the various issues problems with the use of drones against American citizens, thus denying them due process.

Drones: Legal, Ethical, and Wise?

Since the first armed drone strike in Yemen 2002, the United States has been leveraging the Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against Terrorists, signed on September 18, 2001, presumably for use in Afghanistan, to justify the use of drone warfare in numerous countries.  Drones have since been used in Yemen, Somalia, Libya, and Mali, but mostly in Pakistan, where strikes began in 2004, and accelerated in 2009; with more than 300 strikes, there have been six times more drone strikes in Pakistan under Obama than under Bush.

No, don’t skip the drone debate

drones

Erick Erickson, master of the conservative blogging site RedState.com, has just penned a FoxNews column where he says we should just totally skip the drone debate and just kill the terrorists before they kill us. He goes through a series of so-called “justifications” for this terrible idea, before ending with this very chilling conclusion:

Just kill them before they kill us. At some point, we must trust that the president and his advisers, when they see a gathering of Al Qaeda from the watchful eye of a drone, are going to make the right call and use appropriate restraint and appropriate force to keep us safe.

Frankly, it should be American policy that any American collaborating with Al Qaeda is better off dead than alive.  Richard Nixon and Dick Cheney should be proud.

First off, let’s get one thing straight—Richard Nixon and Dick Cheney are not people to celebrate or emulate. Nixon engaged in dirty, underhanded tactics to keep his presidency, tactics which when exposed led to the largest case of political corruption in modern American history. And Cheney, well, he’s just a jerk. A jerk who was beholden to his old company, Halliburton, and was not exactly in line with the Constitution on several issues. Erickson should not be looking to either with praise and approval, but the exact opposite.

The Inexcusable Brennan Hearing

In light of a Department of Justice memo laying out the general rules for assassinating American citizens with drones via a presidential “kill list” - and consequently, without Due Process - it was believed yesterday’s confirmation hearing for John Brennan as Central Intelligence Agency Director, the architect of these strikes, would be contentious.  It sadly was not, and the Senate Intelligence Committee’s failure to press him on the assassinations of American citizens is nothing short of inexcusable.

As I stated in a post earlier this week, I did not expect the U.S. Senate to check the power it collectively usurped with the CIA; after all, they had a hand in constructing the legal framework for the extrajudicial assassinations of American citizens.  The precedence set by this policy endangers the checks-and-balances inherent within a typical constitutional republic.

Welcome to the Police State

police state

Police state might be a tad bit strong.  Police city might be more appropriate.  However, it’s still a pretty scary thing to watch.

Paragould, Arkansas Mayor Mike Gaskill and Police Chief Todd Stovall offered up a “solution” for the towns crime problem.  That solution?  Well, it looks like something out of a dystopian novel:

Stovall told the group of almost 40 residents that beginning in 2013, the department would deploy a new street crimes unit to high crime areas on foot to take back the streets.

“[Police are] going to be in SWAT gear and have AR-15s around their neck,” Stovall said. “If you’re out walking, we’re going to stop you, ask why you’re out walking, check for your ID.”

Stovall said while some people may be offended by the actions of his department, they should not be.

“We’re going to do it to everybody,” he said. “Criminals don’t like being talked to.”

Gaskill backed Stovall’s proposed actions during Thursday’s town hall. “They may not be doing anything but walking their dog,” he said. “But they’re going to have to prove it.”

Stovall said the foot patrols would begin on the east side of town and would eventually snake into the Pecan Grove area.

So citizens engaged in a lawful activing - like walking their dog - have to prove that they’re not up to no good?  Will police officers in Paragould phrase their requests as “Papers, please?”  Possibly.  Here’s more about Stovall’s warped thinking behind this draconian move:

SOPA: Freedom and the Internet, Victorious

Yesterday, I spoke on the floor of the House of Representatives about the massive online protest against the Stop Online Piracy Act (“SOPA”) and the PROTECT IP Act (“PIPA”), legislation that poses a dire threat to the Internet and to liberties that our enshrined in our Bill of Rights.

You can watch my speech and read the transcript below:

Long ago, Jefferson warned, “The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield, and government to gain ground.” The exceptions to that rule have been few and far between recently, and ought to be celebrated when they occur.

One did this past week with the announcement that supporters of the so-called “Stop On-Line Privacy Act” and the “Protect Intellectual Property Act” have indefinitely postponed their measures after an unprecedented protest across the Internet.

SOPA and PIPA pose a crippling danger to the Internet because they use the legitimate concern over copy-right infringement as an excuse for government to intrude upon and regulate the very essence of the Internet - the unrestricted and absolutely free association that links site to site, providing infinite pathways for commerce, discourse and learning.

The State of Our Union is Dire

Tonight President Obama will deliver his third State of the Union address, but something that happened yesterday illustrates the true state of our union far better than anything you’ll hear tonight. As we reported yesterday, Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) was detained by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials at the Nashville International Airport. Paul was detained by TSA officials after refusing an invasive full body pat-down following some kind of anomaly in the body scanner’s reading. Some might argue that there’s nothing to get worked up about here. After all, shouldn’t we expect senators to be treated like everyone else? But it is precisely because everyday citizens are subjected to these invasive procedures on a daily basis that Sen. Paul’s detention is so alarming. His high-profile detention by the TSA serves as a reminder that Americans are having their privacy violated every day on their way through the nation’s airports.

You probably won’t hear about Sen. Paul’s detention by the TSA in President Obama’s address tonight. You’re not likely to hear anything about it in the GOP response delivered by Governor Mitch Daniels (R-Ind.), nor even in the Tea Party response offered by businessman and former presidential candidate Herman Cain (R-Ga.). You probably won’t hear about the National Defense Authorization Act, the Stop Online Piracy Act, or any of the other manifold ways that Washington has undermined the Bill of Rights. But whether our politicians want to raise these issues or not, these are the issues that define the state of our union in the 21st century. And the state of our union is dire.

It’s Working: #StopSOPA Protests Make Senators Back Off

Most times, petitions, protests, and the like to seem to have very little effect. People protested against the Iraq War, but we went in. People protested against TARP and the bailouts, but we bailed them out anyways. People protested against Obamacare, and it was passed anyways.

Today is different.

Judging from the news I’ve been seeing, it appears that the SOPA Strike is having an appreciable effect. I’ve already noted that Sens. Rubio and Cornyn, two sponsors, have switched sides on the bill. Declan MuCullough over at CNet reports that there is even more antipathy than I previously thought:

Rep. John Carter, [R-Mars? -Ed.] a Texas Republican who is listed as a SOPA sponsor, “reserves judgment on the final bill,” a spokesman told CNET today. “He’s certainly not saying pass the bill as-is — there are legitimate concerns in this bill.” (See CNET’s FAQ on the topic.)

[…]

The home pages of Craigslist and Google feature exhortations to contact members of Congress and urge them to vote against the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Senate version called Protect IP. Amazon.com and Yahoo’s Flickr have also joined in. (Craiglist’s snarky note: “Corporate paymasters, KEEP THOSE CLAMMY HANDS OFF THE INTERNET!”)

New York senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, both Democrats who are Protect IP sponsors, sent CNET a joint statement saying: “While the threat to tens of thousands of New York jobs due to online piracy is real and must be addressed, it must be done in a way that allows the Internet and our tech companies to continue to flourish.” They said they believe “both sides can come together on a solution that satisfies their respective concerns.”

Wikipedia to go dark to protest #SOPA?

There are very few petitions that I think will actually do something. Usually, I simply don’t bother. Nobody reads them or listens to them. However, there are exceptions, and here is one of them.

Apparently, Wikipedia is considering going dark to protest the censorship monstrosities “Stop Online Piracy Act” and “Protect IP Act,” and DemandProgress has a petition website up where you can pledge to donate $1 if they do go dark, or simply sign a nonmonetary petition to do so. I have pledged the money, not only because I oppose SOPA, but also because I have used Wikipedia a lot over the years, and I would like to give back to that community.

We’ve been over why SOPA is a bad idea here many times. There are sincere technological problems with SOPA, along with political issues. It’s a cure that’s worse than the disease. The backers behind SOPA are pirates themselves. Wikipedia would also not be alone in this, if it does go through. All of these are reasons why we need to do something about this bill, and do it now.


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