One of the most fascinating dynamics I have ever seen is playing out before our eyes in the Senate right now. At about noon E.D.T today, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul took the dais in the United States Senate and declared “I rise today to begin to filibuster John Brennan’s nomination for the C.I.A.,” Mr. Paul began. “I will speak until I can no longer speak. I will speak as long as it takes, until the alarm is sounded from coast to coast that our Constitution is important, that your rights to trial by jury are precious, that no American should be killed by a drone on American soil without first being charged with a crime, without first being found to be guilty by a court.”
Senator Paul is filibustering the nomination of John O. Brennan to head the Central Intelligence agency. Mr. Paul, an outspoken conservative senator made the decision to filibuster the Brennan nomination after receiving correspondence from United States Attorney General Eric Holder that indicated that the United States would consider the use of deadly drone strikes against its own citizens. While many on the right have opposed the Brennan nomination, they are unexpectedly being joined by traditional left leaning groups, most notably the American Civil Liberties Union.
On Wednesday afternoon, Christopher Anders, Senior Legislative Council at the ACLU announced that they were strongly supporting the Rand Paul filibuster:
“It’s certainly a courageous and historic effort by Senator Rand Paul and his colleagues, who are now increasing in numbers and coming to the fore in support of his filibuster,” said Anders. “The information Senator Paul is looking for goes to the very core of what the US is and who Americans are as a people.” Anders pointed out that the information Paul seeks is easy for the administration to hand over – it “ought to be a no-brainer,” he said. “It ought to be upsetting for everyone, all Americans of both parties, to not be able to get a straight answer to what is a very straightforward question from Senator Paul.” (Anders)
Anders went on to explain that the Department of Justice could post the legal memos in question on the internet within an hour, or Xerox them and send them to the floor of the Senate. “The American people have a right to know,” said Anders. “Senator Paul is right to push for that information and I think he’s doing a very good job of exercising his constitutional duty as a member of Congress in our system of checks and balances to help serve as a check on the executive branch, on the president.” Anders called the administration’s stonewalling “inexcusable.” The standards apparently applied by the administration, he continued, “are not standards recognized by any court in the land, any court anywhere in the world.”
There was another small break from the left when Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon said that while he had voted in favor of Mr. Brennan’s nomination at Tuesday’s Senate Intelligence Committee meeting and plans to vote for him again on the Senate floor, he believed that Mr. Paul “has made a number of important points” about the administration’s lethal drone program and the potential for targeting American citizens on United States soil. “I think Senator Paul and I agree that this nomination also provides a very important opportunity for the United States Senate to consider the government’s rules and policies on the targeted killings of Americans and that, of course, has been a central pillar of our nation’s counterterror strategy,” Mr. Wyden said. He added that he felt that “the executive branch should not be allowed to conduct such a serious and far-reaching program by themselves without any scrutiny, because that’s not how American democracy works.”
It will be interesting to see how the anti-war “peaceful” left reacts to this challenge. I have new respect for Senator Paul.