As Republicans went at one another and White House officials watched in amusement, the administration directly answered the question at the heart of Mr. Paul’s filibuster. No, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said in a letter Thursday to Mr. Paul, the president does not have the authority to use a drone to kill a United States citizen on American soil who is not engaged in combat.
Mr. Holder did not say how the president would determine who is an enemy combatant. And he did not back off his statement on Wednesday that the president has the authority to pursue military action inside the United States in extraordinary circumstances, an assertion that helped set off Mr. Paul’s filibuster.
NY Times: A Senator’s Stand on Drones Scrambles Partisan Lines, March 7, 2013
It would be foolish to presume that Paul’s moment in the spotlight heralds a new Senate willingness to roll back the expanses of the post-9/11 security apparatus. Rubio, for instance, stopped short of endorsing any of Paul’s substantive criticisms of the war. But Paul did manage to shift what political scientists call the Overton Window — the acceptable center of gravity of discussion. Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Michigan), the hawkish chairman of the House intelligence committee, put out a statement that started out subliminally criticizing Paul but ultimately backing him on the central point.
“It would be unconstitutional for the U.S. military or intelligence services to conduct lethal counterterrorism operations in the United States against U.S. citizens,” Rogers said. “And as Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, I would never allow such operations to occur on my watch. I urge the Administration to clarify this point immediately so Congress can return to its pressing oversight responsibilities.”
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