AG Holder Says "No;" Senator Paul Declares "Victory" for Civil Liberties

By:  Joe Wolverton, II, J.D.
AG Holder Says "No;" Senator Paul Declares "Victory" for Civil Liberties

In a one-sentence letter, Attorney General Eric Holder said the president does not have the authority to use drones to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil.

Following an inspiring nearly 13-hour filibuster, Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) declared “victory” in his quest to receive an answer to his question on the limits of the president’s presumed authority to use lethal force to kill Americans without due process.

In a tersely worded, one-line letter, Attorney General Eric Holder (shown) provided Paul with the following answer:

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.

In an interview with CNN, Paul said he was satisfied by Holder’s response. “I’m disappointed it took a month and a half and a root canal to get it, but we did get the answer.”

In a press release following the publication of the letter, Paul elaborated: "This is a major victory for American civil liberties and ensures the protection of our basic Constitutional rights. We have Separation of Powers to protect our rights. That's what government was organized to do and that's what the Constitution was put in place to do,” Paul said. “I would like to congratulate my fellow colleagues in both the House and Senate and thank them for joining me in protecting the rights of due process.”

Although it is arguably a victory, it is a small one. In fact, it may be little more than Pyrrhic as the phrase that pays in the attorney general’s memo to the senator appears to be “not engaged in combat.”

If the past is any precursor of the future, the president (whether it be Barack Obama or his successor) will likely find plenty of clever ways to interpret that standard so as to justify the targeting and killing of enemies of the state no matter where they are found — at home or abroad. The "not engaged in combat" modifier is the loophole the neocons need to fire a deadly missile at anyone whose name ends up on the kill lists.

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Photo of Attorney General Eric Holder: AP Images

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