Did Rand Paul Win? White House Says No Authority to Kill Noncombatants on U.S. Soil

TPM reports this morning:

The U.S. government cannot use a drone to kill an American citizen who is not engaged in combat on American soil, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Thursday during his daily press briefing.

Carney said that Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) had on Thursday asked the administration if the president has the authority to use a mechanized drone against an American on U.S. soil who is not engaged in hostile activities. "The answer to that question is no," Carney said.

But who is a noncombatant? What constitutes engaging in hostile activities to the White House? Does this still leave the "we declare you a combatant" excuse? More clarity needed.

UPDATE: Via Politico, the complete text of a letter Attorney General Holder sent to Rand Paul today. In its entirety: "It has come to my attention that you have now asked an additional question: 'Does the President have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil?' The answer to that question is no."

Still: what defines "engaged in combat" to you guys? Doesn't seem to actively apply to most victims of overseas drones. Does it mean, as Lindsey Graham suggested, just being a member of Al-Queda, a topic on which the White House will undoubtedly declare itself sole judge (and then jury, and executioner)? Also, the mechanism of the kill--mechanized drone--isn't the sole issue at point here. It's summary executive power to decide who to kill without charge or trial in a Forever War.

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  • ||

    So they slithered out of the tight spot Rand put them in through ambiguity. I expect no less from these fucks. So the answer is still "yes we can if we classify the kill the right way."

  • tarran||

    They remind me of the times we deposed my ex wife.

    Trying to pin them down is like nailing jello to a wall.

  • Brett L||

    Yes, but he has also put them in the tight spot of it now being political suicide to kill someone not actively engaged in immediately hostile actions. There's no way that it doesn't become an Iran-Contra level shitstorm now. Call it a qualified win.

  • Mr. Soul||

    you're right Brett. Kings and politicians will always exceed their granted powers. Making them acknowledge those limits is a huge win. This is a BFD!

  • RBS||

    'Does the President have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil?'

    So if they just send in a SEAL team it probably ok.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    'Does the President have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil?'

    So if they just send in a SEAL team it probably ok.

    That's my take on it too.

    They can't use a drone (there'd be a lot of publicity, and surely the King would want to keep any killings of US citizens on US soil as secret as possible so a drone isn't fit anyways), but we can send a sniper to shoot you from 3/4 mile as you're mowing your yard or walking the dog.

    Really the only thing the answer does is tell us they can't use drones to summarily execute US citizens on US soil, but that any other method is perfectly acceptable.

  • Brandon||

    At least it's crystal clear to anyone paying attention that McCain and Graham are pathetic idiots.

  • ||

    Graham better get primared in 2014. He's such a fucking prick.

  • ||

    *primaried

  • johnl||

    What would be cool is if the new guy at Heritage challenged him in the primary.

  • johnl||

    Or the new guy at Cato!

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    "if the president has the authority to use a mechanized drone against an American on U.S. soil who *is* not engaged in hostile activities. "The answer to that question is no," [emphasis added]

    So I suppose it depends on what the definition of "is" is.

    From Paul's perspective, someone who's not out there brandishing a rocket launcher or flying a plane toward a building "is not engaged in hostile activities." I suspect, though, that the administration has a more fluid definition, including someone who has been engaging in hostile activities in the past and might in the future.

    It's the opposite of Clinton's definition, where "is" meant "right now as I'm talking to you." I think the Obama definition of "is" is "at any time in the past or any time in the future."

  • NowWhatian Boghog||

    At least he would be forced to explain his tortuous reasoning behind a strike in response to this letter. I would love to see that asshole explain how someone writing mean things about the U.S. is "engaging in hostile activities"

  • CampingInYourPark||

    "Did Rand Paul Win?"

    I think he won more than just this admission.

    Twitter is full of comments like this:

    "Shirley Larsen ‏@merrybird
    Poor @SenJohnMcCain and @GrahamBlog did someone outshine you? Stand by the oath you took!! Protect our constitution."

    "Katy ‏@KRaeRan
    John McCain, eat your words, & retire. Nobody likes you. YOU CAN'T SIT WITH US"

  • robc||

    I made a prediction last night that activates if he wins, which I guess he did.

    Ergo, congratulations President Paul. Good luck in office in 2017.

  • rhofulster||

    I saw Obama's speech to the convention in 2004, and thought "There's the winner in 2008."
    Same gut feeling about RP last night. I don't know if I would take him vs the field, but I'd sure as hell take him v any one candidate in the field - including Hillary.

  • ||

    "Additional question" my left asscheek. What a smegma-smeared kneebiter.

  • CampingInYourPark||

    "Demand an Apology from Senator McCain"

    http://t.co/tF2eyOlt0C

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    It has come to my attention...

    "I didn't actually watch your little yapfest over there, but someone here at Justice accidentally heard something you said while switching past C-SPAN..."

  • ||

    Honestly, Rand fucked himself last night when he acted like Durbin was right about Osama bin Laden being an "imminent but not immediate" thread to the US when we killed him. He was obviously caught off guard and didn't know what to say, but the "touché" response was DOUBLE PLUS UNGOOD and he really should have maintained that he was in fact not an imminent threat. Because now, as far as TEAM STATE is concerned, Rand Paul just admitted that anyone on an SPLC hate list is an imminent but not immediate threat, now aka "in combat" and thus subject to domestic droning.

  • ||

    Rand sez:

    On my way to the Senate floor to talk about the letter I received from Attorney General Holder.
  • ||

    From the floor:

    So it has taken a while but we've gotten an explicit answer. I'm pleased that we did and I think the battle was worthwhile. One because we got a lot of discussion about when can a drone be used.... [talks about droning people overseas who aren't engaged in combat and how we need a higher standard in our own country] So I'm very pleased to have gotten this response back from the AG of the US and Americans should see this battle we've had over the past 24 hours as something that unites the whole country...
  • Ken Shultz||

    We should get rid of or change the AUMF as soon as possible--regardless of what Eric Holder writes in his letters.

  • IceTrey||

    "The Forever War" one of my all time faves!

  • EddieInFL||

    Rand Paul made a lot of points with those of us who still think we have a salvageable country! Every Senator--ALL 100 OF THEM--"should" have been there with him because they ALL should be defending our Constitution. Those that didn't, including Graham and the brain dead McCain are part of the problem!

    My thanks to Rand Paul.

  • Copernicus||

    O'butthead took McCain and Graham out for dinner last night.

    He told them that Rand Paul was gettin' uppity and was making all of them look bad.

    He told his bitches (McCain and Graham) to get out there and slap that Kentucky redneck down.

  • abella||

    my best friend's sister got paid $18490 past week. she has been working on the computer and moved in a $584400 home. All she did was get fortunate and try the clues shown on this link and go to home tab....
    http://googlejobs.co.uk.qr.net/ka8z

  • minarchist||

    I think we need a serious discussion about the possible legitimacy of drone-wacks on RINOs.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

    To an extent this is like a pinhead disco head count, since BO has demonstrated time and time again that he will do as he pleases regardless of the law or the Constitution.

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