In advance of the Senate’s vote on President Obama’s nomination of John Brennan to head the CIA, on Thursday, Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) tried a third time to get Brennan to answer key constitutional questions regarding the legality of the deadly drone strikes that play a major role in the president’s foreign policy. This comes a week after he threatened a filibuster on Feb. 13.
In his Feb. 20 letter to Brennan, Senator Paul reiterated the point that, “"The question that I and many others have asked is not whether the Administration has or intends to carry out drone strikes inside the United States, but whether it believes it has the authority to do so. This is an important distinction that should not be ignored.”
This is a core constitutional issue regarding the prosecution of the drone war that was all but ignored during Brennan’s recent confirmation hearing in the Senate Intelligence Committee.
During that proceeding, the questions from senators and the responses by Brennan were little more than pantomime with the dialogue seeming to come from a prepared script rather than from an effort by lawmakers to question Brennan on the legality and constitutionality of a program he has played a central role in developing and expanding.
Over and over again, when pressed about details of the drone war and the use of the unmanned aerial vehicles in the “War on Terror,” Brennan hedged, demurred, and generally evaded every question.
It’s not surprising that committee members took it easy on Brennan (with the exception of a brief rat-a-tat with Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia). After all, as was noted in Esquire, these are members of the “national-security priesthood.” They are, in several signal ways, co-conspirators in the policy that has killed thousands of individuals, three of whom were Americans, none of whom was ever charged or allowed to answer any charges.
As one watched the confirmation hearing, which appeared to be little more than a glorified job interview, one got the feeling that the candidate knew he was a shoo-in and that the question and answers were sound and fury signifying nothing.
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Photo of Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky): AP Images