Ted Cruz to Eric Holder: Yes or no, is it constitutional to use drones on U.S. soil against someone who’s not posing an immediate threat?

posted at 1:41 pm on March 6, 2013 by Allahpundit

A must-see via Mediaite, not just because this is the right question to ask after Holder’s letter on drone policy yesterday but because it fell to Cruz, the new bete noire of the left, rather than a Democrat to press the civil-libertarian case. Simple question: Is it a violation of due process to fire a missile at a guy on American soil if he’s not engaged at the moment in carrying out a terrorist attack? He might be a member of Al Qaeda; he might be planning an attack; but if he’s strolling down Main Street in some American town, is there any constitutional justification to toss a Hellfire at him rather than send the cops in to pick him up? Watch Holder’s reaction. Cruz has to browbeat him for three minutes to get him to shift from saying it wouldn’t be “appropriate” — which implies that the government might have the power to do it but would refuse to exercise that power for prudential reasons — to finally saying that, constitutionally, it doesn’t have that power. That’s an important admission; unless I missed something, it’s the first time anyone at the top has acknowledged a legal limit to drone strikes under certain circumstances. Here’s hoping we don’t have to point back to it someday.

As Ed already mentioned, Rand Paul’s been engaged in an old-fashioned talk-til-you-drop filibuster on the Senate floor for more than an hour to protest O’s refusal to rule out drone strikes against Americans on U.S. soil. A few choice quotes, first from the Examiner:

“Barack Obama, in 2007, would be down here with me arguing against this,” Paul said on the Senate floor. “It amazes me and disappoints me how much he’s changed.”

More from Breitbart:

“If there was an ounce of courage in this body I would be joined by many other Senators,” Sen. Paul said. “Would you tolerate a Republican who said I like the first amendment, I don’t plan to violate the first amendment, but I might,” he asked rhetorically. He then turned the question around and asked if Republicans would tolerate that sort of vaguery with regard to the 2nd amendment.

As of 1 p.m. ET, he’s live on C-SPAN 2. (You can watch here.) It’s a clever tactic twice over: While Holder’s already admitted that the feds can’t kill you at a cafe, he’s putting the Lightbringer on the spot to formally admit it too. Even if O refuses, the media attention caused by this stunt will highlight for liberals the fact that the anti-Bush they thought they elected in 2008 is a lot more Cheney-esque than they thought. (Then again, many Democrats have long since stopped caring about that.) It’s clever too because Paul needs to make amends to libertarians and paleocons for voting twice to filibuster Chuck Hagel. This is his way of reminding them ostentatiously that he’s still his father’s son.

Exit question: Why is Paul limiting his objection to killing Americans on American soil? Would he tolerate the feds firing a missile at a foreign national sitting in a U.S. cafe? Or have I misunderstood and he’s not actually limiting his objection that way?


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