The Washington Post on Rand Paul’s filibuster: “paranoid fantasies”

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Sean Higgins

You’d think a major national newspaper with a reputation for holding power accountable would applaud Senator Rand Paul’s filibuster and the related to get the White House to clarify its position on drone strikes on US citizens on US soil.

You would be  wrong. The Washington Post’s official editor of the matter, “More oversight and disclosure on drones, ” is simply appalling, accusing Paul of engaging in “paranoid fantasies” for simply trying to get the administration to clarify its policy towards killing US citizens.

Here are the relevant passages:

Mr. Paul’s filibuster was triggered by the response of Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to the question of whether the president “has the authority to order lethal force, such as a drone strike, against a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil, and without a trial.” Mr. Holder’s unremarkable answer was that the administration had no intention of ever using such force but that “in an extraordinary circumstance,” such as the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, it would be “necessary and appropriate” for the president to order military action inside the United States.

From that answer, Mr. Paul and allies such as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) somehow concocted the absurd notion that Americans “sitting quietly in cafes” could be blasted by Hellfire missiles. No, they couldn’t be, as Mr. Holder made clear in a letter to Mr. Paul on Thursday. But the reality is that Americans who become combatants for forces with which the United States is at war, such as al-Qaeda, are legitimate targets. If one such enemy combatant attempted to crash an airliner into the Capitol, the president would be at fault if he did not deploy the Air Force in defense.

But enough about Mr. Paul: The fact that his paranoid fantasies gained some traction is testimony to the administration’s real failures in managing its counterterrorism campaigns. Mr. Obama has chosen to carry out hundreds of drone strikes against al-Qaeda targets in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, including one against a U.S. citizen, without any public accounting. Justice Department memos authorizing the attacks have not been disclosed; only this week were senators on the intelligence committee allowed to read them. The White House has devised a process for adding names to a target list for drone strikes but has never revealed even its outlines. Instead, it insists on its righteousness and invites Americans to trust that its decisions are justified.

That is not how a democracy should operate. As we have previously argued, there is no cause for most of the secrecy in which the drone operations are shrouded.

Simple question for the Post’s editorial page writers: How did they expect the administration to ever answer questions about its policy absent the actions of Senators Cruz and Paul? Holder’s reaction to Paul’s inquiry was not “unremarkable”. He was repeatedly vague and evasive on the policy. In fact, the administration still hasn’t clarified what an “imminent threat” means in this context. The Post should be  applauding Cruz and Paul for getting what answers we do have.

It is worth noting that two of the Post’s own editorial page columnists Eugene Robinson and Dana Milbank raised the same points as Cruz and Paul. Robinson even cheered Paul. Do the Post’s editorial writers not read them?

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