Rand Paul vs. Drones and Black Helicopters

In looking at the threats to civil liberties which we face, I cannot disagree with Rand Paul in opposing the use of drones to kill Americans who are not engaged in combat against the United States (criteria which is somewhat vague). It was good to see an someone actually speaking during a filibuster, even if at times it sounded like a paranoid rant about black helicopters and Tea Party fantasy. We saw more grandstanding than actual defense of civil liberties, with Rand Paul (like his father)  having a rather mixed record in this area. There are other more pressing matters of civil liberties which actually impact the lives of Americans, such as the right wing’s use of government to restrict reproductive rights. I will present an example of a victory on civil liberties which is far more significant than Rand Paul’s filibuster in the next post.

The irresponsibility of the Republican leadership in both Houses of Congress, more concerned with opposing Obama than either governing or even providing a responsible opposition, has created a situation where even a clown like Rand Paul provides a mixed moment of hope. Paul’s actual effort was a failure (as discussed in more detail in the several links in the paragraph above) but it at least did include an attempt to discuss an actual issue. A more through discussion of the use of drones, rather than obsessing about the quite rare cases of targeting Americans, would provide a more meaningful example of needed Congressional oversight. Regardless of the degree of support for Barack Obama, it is unrealistic to expect restrictions on the Executive branch to come from the President.

I do not agree with the all-out criticism of drones, seeing advantages to their use as opposed to putting Americans in direct harm. Question as to their use first depend upon whether the military action is justified, regardless if by troops on the ground or by drones. Use against Americans, while definitely something which must be watched, has been a rare event in unusual circumstances. Collateral damage is a consequence of war regardless of technique and criticisms of drones based upon deaths of innocent civilians is not a sufficient argument against their use.

The ability to target individuals with drones does create new concerns, and requires check and balances which are now absent. I have supported oversight analogous to the FISA Court, as others have also proposed, and the Obama administration is considering. This would provide some degree of judicial oversight, ending the idea that any individual (regardless of whether an American citizen) could be targeted for execution by drones with no oversight whatsoever. In addition, this would ensure that there is a record of the justification for the use of drones which could be reviewed by Congressional committees which might uncover any pattern of abuse. Ultimately such information should be declassified so presidents would know that their conduct would be judged by history. Unfortunately Rand Paul’s filibuster on targeted killings of Americans on American soil pandered to the paranoia of the black helicopter crowd as opposed to serious consideration of the issue.

Besides, if Rand Paul really thought that Obama would use drones against American citizens he wouldn’t have stood in one place for thirteen hours while criticizing Obama.

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