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.