In December, I wrote an opinion article for the Claremont Independent titled “America Needs an Anti-war Revival.” In it, I detailed the ways in which the Obama Administration has continued and even intensified the U.S.’s War on Terror and how the civil liberties of all Americans were being threatened by a series of new policies and precedents set in the last few years. After the events of this past month, I am convinced more than ever that this trend is progressing.
On Mar. 4, 2013, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder released a 16-page memo suggesting that the use of unmanned drones against U.S. citizens on American soil could be justified under “extraordinary circumstances.” The idea that the President can authorize military violence domestically without due process is certainly an unprecedented and dangerous idea. Moreover, the current Justice Department’s use of ambiguous language and lack of transparency makes it ever clearer that the current administration has little respect for constitutional restraints and civil liberties.
Fortunately, Senator Rand Paul (R) Kentucky filibustered the nomination of John Brennan as head of the CIA for 13 hours on Mar. 6, 2013, to demand clarification on the policy implications of the Holder memo. He sought an answer to the question of whether the President was authorized to kill U.S. citizens with domestic drones, an answer he had not been satisfactorily given despite two days of correspondence with the Justice Department. As one of the strongest voices for civil liberties in the U.S. Senate, Senator Paul single-handedly put the national spotlight upon a potentially egregious expansion of executive power. Thankfully, to the question of whether the President of the United States can authorize deadly force against fellow citizens, Senator Paul eventually received a hard-sought “no” for an answer. In an age of ever liberal interpretation of executive discretion, this sort of explicit clarification is absolutely necessary for drawing the line on government power.
With regard to the state of civil liberties in the United States in relation to the War on Terror, there is still much to worry about. However, the impact that Senator Paul’s stand has made is ultimately a cause for optimism. Senator Paul’s filibuster not only brought four of his GOP colleagues onto the floor in support, but also Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) who welcomed discussion of domestic drones despite his support for Brennan’s confirmation. The filibuster has gone viral on Facebook and Twitter feeds, garnering the attention and support of liberals and conservatives alike. Recently, even the Harvard Crimson, a prominent student publication at Harvard University which recently opined that conservatives “need not apply” to their school, published an editorial voicing support of Senator Rand Paul titled We Stand with Rand. It would seem that Americans everywhere are at long last ready to tell the administration that enough is enough.
Four months earlier, I pointed out the absence of the anti-war Left in protesting Obama’s national security policies and abuses of executive power. While protests against the War on Terror in Washington still have not taken place on nearly the same scale as they did under George W. Bush, the widespread support Americans have given to Senator Rand Paul is encouraging. Even those who disagree with Senator Paul on everything else from fiscal policy to drug decriminalization have reason to commend him. In opposing the extrajudicial killings of U.S. citizens or innocent civilians abroad at the hands of our military, a good first gesture that all Americans can make is to stand with Rand. If the Harvard Crimson can do it, we all can.