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#StandwithRand: A Symbolic, But Significant, Filibuster

Posted on the 07 March 2013 by Kzawadzki @kzawadzki
English: United States Senate candidate , at a...

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I type this, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has moved into his 12th hour of his standing, spoken filibuster. He only took brief breaks to go to the bathroom as needed while Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) read supportive tweets, hashtagged #StandwithRand.

His presentation is blocking, or at least delaying, a vote on confirming President Barack Obama’s pick for chief of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), John Brennan. The reason he’s stood and spoken almost all day now? Drones and their potential implications for American civil liberties.

It is a symbolic stand. John Brennan will likely go on to be confirmed, I predict. Much like Chuck Hagel was eventually confirmed, even approved by Sen. Paul himself who supported the initial filibuster.

And even if Brennan is not confirmed as CIA head, someone will have to be. Regardless of what is done as far as the Obama administration’s drone policy.

In a blog post exactly last month, I stated my opinion on the drone war. I stand by every word in that piece, and I reiterate here that I support the application of drones in war capacities, but with an important caveat: judicial oversight of its use as far as targeting suspected terrorists. I don’t care what party the president is – he or she should not be able to unconditionally order an assassination without at least some form of judicial oversight and process, and certainly not without being able to furnish sufficient proof that the person of interest is indeed a threat to national security.

I have not tuned in to the live footage of Sen. Paul’s stand against unlimited drone use. I’ve certainly read about it as the day turned into night. So I admit that my knowledge of what exactly, word-for-word, he is saying even as I type now is second-hand at best and not nearly as acute as I’d like it to be. But I think I got the gyst of it, and its significance is certainly not lost on me.

I would like to applaud Sen. Paul for using the filibuster as I sincerely believe it should be used – if you feel so opposed to something that you block further vote on it, you should be able to back up that passionate opposition with a passionate and relevant presentation, as I hear Sen. Paul is doing right now. I disagree with him on a lot of things, but I appreciate him for making this stand and not only using the filibuster properly, but doing it with a strong reason and principle – the question of government policy vis-a-vis civil liberties.

I want President Obama to answer the challenge and agree to start working out a framework for a definite policy regarding the government’s use of drones.

As I said in my post last month, I have no sympathy for people like Anwar al-Awlaki, an al-Qaida terrorist who plotted harm and destruction upon the U.S. even as he held American citizenship when he was killed with a drone strike in Yemen in 2011. As far as people like that are concerned, they get what’s coming to them.

But there should be a framework that guarantees oversight to ensure that the government’s capacity for warfare, domestic or abroad, is not abused. Accurate intel, judicial reasoning and convincing evidence should be gathered before a target is locked-on.

And President Obama would do well to be transparent in this. It’s not enough to simply say there has been no evidence of abuses to date. And it’s definitely not enough to ignore the demands for answers and clarifications.

In demanding transparency, I am not asking for a WikiLeaks-style reveal of every single deliberation and piece of top-secret intelligence to be posted up on the White House website. I have a good head on my shoulders, and I realize that some things need to remain classified for security purposes (after all, you wouldn’t play “Battleship” with a mirror showing your opponent your every position, no matter how friendly the game may be).

President Barack Obama addresses the House Dem...

President Barack Obama (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But agreeing to craft a clear and defined policy regarding the use of drones and informing our country’s lawmakers, judicial officials and the citizenry at large that, yes, there will be a process to determine who and what constitutes a serious threat that should be eliminated might go a long way in assuring that justice is not going to be arbitrary and whimsical.

Sen. Paul used his position very wisely today to bring these issues to the forefront on Capitol Hill. There are important questions that the Tea Party legislator has brought up today, and they’ve been festering for some time now.

Again, if someone is advocating for, training for or actually preparing to wreak havoc and destruction upon our country and its hallowed institutions, and there is significant proof that they are, indeed, a serious threat, let ‘em have it. But drone use should not be unconditional and unlimited, simply because that just opens a big, wide door for abuse, be it by this administration or any other in the future.

Whether it’s John Brennan or someone else, the drone issue will remain. Which is why I predict that we will have a CIA head in the very near future. But it’s time for the administration to listen and address these very important questions.

Americans not only demand a clear policy on drones; we deserve one.

I don’t agree with every one of Sen. Paul’s points as far as drones go, and again, on pretty much every other day, I strongly oppose his ideas, statements and positions and think he and the Tea Party he’s part of range from ridiculous to creepy.

But in demanding clear answers about the drone war and a policy of accountability, oversight and justice on how, when and why it will be applied, I #StandwithRand.

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