Rand Paul's Filibuster Pushes The Overton Window On Terror War

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ANOTHER UPDATE: At a White House briefing today, Jay Carney said there is no authority for U.S. drone strikes against Americans on U.S. soil.

UPDATE: That ever-popular comedy team of Grampy McCain and Lindsey Grahamcracker are attacking Rand's filibuster -- which means it had an impact.

I watched a lot of Rand Paul's filibuster Wednesday, and as much as progressives loathe much of what Paul stands for, I do agree with his take in this instance. (Even a stopped clock, etc.) I have been one of his harshest critics as C&Lers know, but I wonder if an unintended consequence will come out of this move. It was a very political ploy on his part and a smart one, but I will always welcome a much-needed discussion on drone attacks both foreign and domestic, targeted assassinations and on our right as U.S. citizens to due process.

The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution each contain a Due Process Clause. The Supreme Court of the United States interprets the Clauses as providing four protections: procedural due process (in civil and criminal proceedings), substantive due process, a prohibition against vague laws, and as the vehicle for the incorporation of the Bill of Rights.

Highlighting this to the American public is a very good thing and should never be minimized.

Here's Spencer Ackerman:

Sen. Rand Paul’s filibuster will inevitably fail at its immediate objective: derailing John Brennan’s nomination to run the CIA. But as it stretches into its sixth hour, it’s already accomplished something far more significant: raising political alarm over the extraordinary breadth of the legal claims that undergird the boundless, 11-plus-year “war on terrorism.”

The war on terror is the war that will never end and will always keep the military industrial complex raking in an endless stream of massive amounts of cash. (Which cause massive deficits, I might add. I mention this only because Republicans say America's future depends on cutting the federal debt.)

Anyway, the point is that Congress never blinks when it comes to the actual length of the war on terror. Rand's father Ron Paul ran against the Iraq war and the war on terror when he was in Congress, and his son picked up the torch from him.

When people talk about a ‘battlefield America’,” Paul said, around hour four, Americans should “realize they’re telling you your Bill of Rights don’t apply.” That is a consequence of the September 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force that did not bound a war against al-Qaida to specific areas of the planet. “We can’t have perpetual war. We can’t have a war with no temporal limits,” Paul said.

This is actually something of a radical proposition. When House Republicans attempted to revisit the far-reaching authorization in 2011, chief Pentagon attorney Jeh Johnson conveyed the Obama administration’s objections. Of course, many, many Republicans have been content with what the Bush administration used to call a “Long War” with no foreseeable or obvious end. And shortly before leaving office in December, Johnson himself objected to a perpetual war, but did so gingerly, and only after arguing that the government had the power to hold detainees from that war even after that war someday ends.

Paul sometimes seemed to object to the specific platform of drones used against Americans more than it did the platform-independent subject of targeted killing. But Paul actually centered his long monologue on the expansive legal claims implied by targeting Americans for due-process-free execution: “If you get on a kill list, it’s kind of hard to complain… If you’re accused of a crime, I guess that’s it. … I don’t want a politician deciding my innocence or guilt.” Paul threw in criticisms of other aspects of the war on terrorism beyond targeted killing, from widespread surveillance of Americans to the abuses of state/Homeland Security intelligence “fusion centers.”

Digby comments on this and says:

I think the Kafkaesque nature of the no-fly list should be enough to persuade people that secret lists are generally a bad idea.

For those who are feeling warm and fuzzy about the right wing's newfound concerns about civil liberties, listen to Charles Krauthammer on Fox News declare that he believes that the president is a tyrant, but he would certainly think it was ok if Bush had "taken out" John Walker Lind in a coffee shop somewhere in the US. So I think there may be some confusion about what this means among our brethren on the right.

She agrees it was a good idea to bring this up to the people. Now back to Attackerman:

It would be foolish to presume that Paul’s moment in the spotlight heralds a new Senate willingness to roll back the expanses of the post-9/11 security apparatus. Rubio, for instance, stopped short of endorsing any of Paul’s substantive criticisms of the war. But Paul did manage to shift what political scientists call the Overton Window — the acceptable center of gravity of discussion. Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Michigan), the hawkish chairman of the House intelligence committee, put out a statement that started out subliminally criticizing Paul but ultimately backing him on the central point.

“It would be unconstitutional for the U.S. military or intelligence services to conduct lethal counterterrorism operations in the United States against U.S. citizens,” Rogers said. “And as Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, I would never allow such operations to occur on my watch. I urge the Administration to clarify this point immediately so Congress can return to its pressing oversight responsibilities.”

Again, that’s still a long way from substantively constraining an executive branch that’s enjoyed both widespread latitude and congressional deference since 9/11. But Paul’s filibuster posed a challenge to the Senate more than it does Brennan or President Obama. “Is perpetual war OK with everybody?” he asked.

Do I believe Paul has moved the Overton window on the discussion of the war on terror? I don't think so, because most of the other Senators who joined Aqua Buddha are not serious about our civil liberties as citizens--just look at how much money the Drone Caucuses of both Houses of Congress have and will rake in. But if some messages are reached to everyday Americans on this issue and it wakes them up-- well, it might begin to change perceptions around the country as we move forward.

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