Drones save lives! Let me repeat that. Drones save lives! Drones allow the military to attack targets deep in enemy territory without risking the lives of our soldiers and airmen.
As you may recall, a drone strike was considered when President Obama approved the attack on bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan as it was recognized that flying several hundred miles over enemy territory at low altitude in the dead of night is inherently dangerous. That said, it is important to recognize what drones are and that they are not all identical.
Drones are primarily flying cameras. Some, though not all drones, are armed with missiles. Though smaller and more agile, drones are not functionally different from blimps or helicopters with cameras. This is a distinction that often gets omitted from the debate about drones.
If drones were to be used in the United States, they would be used in a surveillance function. That is, drones would be launched without missiles. Let me repeat that. I cannot imagine a scenario where any President, Barack Obama included, would arm a drone with missiles and launch it over the United States. Why do I say this?
Let us imagine the likely scenario for their use, crowd surveillance at a large public outdoor gathering, such as an inauguration address or a major sporting event. If the drone identified a terrorist in a crowd at such an event, a President would not launch a missile to kill the terrorist, regardless of his nationality, because the missile would almost assuredly kill bystanders. Instead, cameras mounted on the drone would help law enforcement on the ground capture or, if necessary, kill this individual.
Some wonder whether Barack Obama believes he has the right to arm a drone with missiles and hunt people he deems to be terrorists on U.S. soil, becoming their judge, jury, and executioner contravening the Constitution. Barack Obama would not need drones to do this as FBI sharpshooters work for him. Remember why the military started using drones: to hunt targets without putting our servicemen in harm’s way. Barack Obama does not face those obstacles if he wants to start hunting people on U.S. soil.
How do I know it is unlikely Barack Obama believes he has the right to hunt his enemies or those he believes are terrorists on U.S. soil? When I walk by 48th Street and 6th Avenue in Manhattan, I do not see a giant hole in the ground where Fox News’ headquarters used to be. Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin are still broadcasting five days a week. If Barack Obama wanted to classify his political enemies as terrorists and go hunting with drones, these would be some pretty tempting targets.
Further, the Obama administration is in the process of transferring bin Laden’s son-in-law to a civilian Article III court in lower Manhattan to face a civilian criminal trial. It would have been much easier to terminate his existence with a missile fired from a drone. Finally, Barack Obama enjoys life too much to risk trial for murder for targeting individuals on U.S. soil who do not present an imminent threat to others. Barack Obama need only ask his buddy Rod Blagojevich to learn that sovereign immunity does not provide a defense to criminal conduct. It is hard to play golf with Tiger Woods in a cell in Leavenworth.
Are drones (aka flying cameras) constitutional per se? Absolutely! How do I know? Since the time Ronald Reagan was President, the federal government has had satellites capable of reading the newspaper over your shoulder while you stand on a platform waiting for your train. There are cameras in every ATM. Heck, I can spy on my neighbors with Google Earth. Clearly constitutionality is not an issue, though citizens who do not like drones may petition their local government to prohibit their flight.
This leads us to Rand Paul and his filibuster. Many have praised Paul’s courage for standing up to the President. Drone policy became an issue only as a result of Obama’s utter contempt for his critics, especially those who consider themselves to be Tea Party Republicans. Do not forget that it took President Obama four years to produce a copy of his birth certificate and end that controversy.
Since Obama was unwilling to state the obvious, that murder is illegal, Rand Paul launched a filibuster to prove that it was and force the Attorney General to say so. Lost in the debate was that it would not matter if President Obama targeted his enemies with a drone or a team of FBI sharpshooters; murder is murder.
Having forced the Attorney General to admit that murder is illegal, even if the President commits it, Paul broke his own filibuster, voting for cloture so John Brennan could receive a vote on his nomination. In other words, Paul’s stunt had absolutely nothing to do with John Brennan’s nomination. Paul might have executed the same filibuster over the nomination of a Deputy Secretary of Agriculture. That is the travesty of this affair, since Brennan has expressed truly radical views that discount the danger of militant jihadism and its threat to our security.
Paul’s lack of interest in Brennan’s radicalism comes as no surprise since Paul voted for Chuck Hagel’s confirmation to be Secretary of Defense. It did not bother Senator Paul that Chuck Hagel endorsed the unilateral elimination of the U.S. nuclear stockpile. Neither did Paul mind that Chuck Hagel is an outspoken anti-Semite and an Iran sympathizer, even as Iran arms our enemies in Afghanistan killing U.S. troops. One would think Senator Paul might object to Chuck Hagel’s desire to send U.S. troops to "keep the peace" in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Not so much. The fact that John Kerry just gave $250 million to the Muslim Brotherhood did not bother Rand Paul enough to vote against him either, even though Paul spoke about eliminating foreign aid to nations “that burn our flag.” Even Jack Lew, the architect of Obama’s budgets such as they are, received a thumbs up from Senator Paul.
My point is this. If Rand Paul cared about the Advice and Consent clause of the U.S. Constitution as much as he claims to care about the rest of the document, he might help his brothers in arms like Senator Ted Cruz fight some of the truly radical nominees that President Obama has promoted. I am glad Rand Paul stood up to the President. Next time, I wish he would do it to actually fight the President’s radical nominees and roll back his unconstitutional agenda.