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For over a dozen hours last week, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul literally took a stand for the Constitution. As a Kentuckian, I am proud to claim the honor of having this statesman serve our commonwealth.
At issue was his inability to get a straightforward answer to a straightforward question – that being whether the president of the United States has the authority to use drones with lethal force to target and assassinate U.S. citizens on U.S. soil. The Obama Administration has used the drones to carry out extermination missions on suspected terrorists overseas, and the debate over whether such a policy could be legally carried out here at home has surfaced in confirmation hearings for a new CIA director.
Senator Paul simply wanted a clarification of the White House policy. What he got was a rambling non-answer from U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder that seemed to suggest that the president would indeed, in certain circumstances, have the right to take out a U.S. citizen without due process.
That is an affront to the Constitution, which guarantees citizens legal rights that precede any government entity from prematurely enacting punishment or penalties. “No president has the right to say he is judge, jury and executioner,” Paul correctly stated.
At one point, Paul even offered to suspend his filibuster and allow the vote on CIA Director nominee John Brennan to proceed, if the Senate would vote on his resolution that states that the use of drones against U.S. citizens on U.S. soil violates the Constitution. The Democrats rejected that offer.
The administration claims that there are hypothetical situations in which the president could be forced to use lethal force against U.S. citizens if they posed an imminent, immediate threat to others, and used Pearl Harbor and the 9-11 attacks as examples. Paul is in agreement that in rare cases where violent attacks are underway or imminent, such action is warranted.
Paul’s contention however, is that the use of drones overseas have been to target and eliminate suspected terrorists as they sit in restaurants with no violent activity under way, planned or imminent. U.S. citizens who are suspected of planning or plotting harm can be investigated, charged and convicted if there is evidence, but the government does not have the right to kill someone simply because they are suspected of illegal activity.
Police can certainly use deadly force to stop a person who is aiming a gun at or holding a knife to a victim. The police cannot carry out lethal justice against someone they suspect might become violent at some later time.
Paul’s stance is not one of weakness in the face of terrorism but rather one of strength in our Constitution. Setting a precedent in which a U.S. President might have the right to kill U.S. citizens without just cause or evidence is simply a gross erosion of everything our Founding Fathers fought for.
The Obama Administration’s unwillingness to give a straight answer to a simple question is even more sobering in light of whom they consider potential terrorists.
In 2009, the Department of Homeland Security released a report that cautioned close watch on certain “domestic right-wing extremists” and implied that those who warrant intense observation include citizens or groups who might support the second amendment, speak out against government authority or voice opposition to abortion or immigration.
The report suggested that rightwing extremists might be more inclined to act because of Obama’s racial background and also warned that returning servicemen and women might be prime recruiting targets for hate groups and extremists groups.
How insulting and how paranoid can this administration be? Do we really want to arm Obama with the authority to strike down people he suspects are enemies or terrorists without due process?
Remember, this is a man show shares philosophies with the ultra-left Southern Poverty Law Center, which has labeled groups such as the Family Research Council as a hate group.
Ironically, the FRC was then subsequently targeted by a gunman in 2012 who walked into their Washington D.C. offices with over 50 rounds of ammunition and shot a security guard and intended to kill dozens because he disagreed with them on the issue of homosexuality. Thankfully, the armed security guard, though wounded, was able to halt the attack before others were killed.
We have a president who has demonstrated repeatedly his willingness to ignore, or even violate the Constitution. Whether it’s the Second Amendment rights for citizens to be own firearms, or the Fifth Amendment that protects U.S. Citizens from illegal prosecution and punishment, Americans should be extremely concerned and vigilant about protecting this sacred document.
We should also be very grateful that there remain a few dedicated men like Rand Paul and we should encourage all of our elected officials to behave more like statesmen and less like politicians. Our Constitution came at too great a cost to be ignored, trashed and abused by this or any administration.
John Shindlebower lives in Finchville.