(Article changed on March 10, 2013 at 09:18)
John Brennan, Obama's consigliore for his "kill list," has now been approved to assume the CIA Directorship. Since the CIA is famous for its record of assassinating foreign leaders and political opposition figures, it seems only reasonable that Brennan should be promoted from Tuesday "kill list" adviser to taking over an entire agency known for this.
Brennan was approved quickly after Sen. Rand Paul ended his nearly thirteen hour speaking filibuster. Rand was objecting to Obama's use of drones to assassinate people outside of any court finding of guilt or any other due process. His filibuster provoked the very interesting and rather revealing spectacle of prominent Republicans such as Sen. John McCain and Lindsey Graham along with John Yoo coming to Obama's rescue, defending Obama's use of drones to kill "America's enemies."
As today's NYT put it:
"We've done, I think, a disservice to a lot of Americans by making them think that somehow they're in danger from their government," Mr. McCain said. "They're not. But we are in danger from a dedicated, longstanding, easily replaceable-leadership enemy that is hellbent on our destruction."
What McCain was complaining about was that Rand Paul called attention to Eric Holder's letter to Paul, by of all things, Paul releasing it publicly, spelling out that the Attorney General believed that the POTUS had the power to order lethal force against even Americans on American soil. This letter and the fact that NBC News reported in February 2013 about a leaked DOJ memo in which Justice set forth its opinion that the POTUS had the right to kill Americans (e.g., with drones) on American soil.
According to McCain, for any Americans to think based on these two things that they were "somehow in danger from their government," well, they should not believe actual literal statements contained in letters authored by the Attorney General and the DOJ.
No, they should listen instead to people like John McCain who know better what the Obama Administration is doing and intends to do then what the very top members of the Obama Administration have themselves explicitly said on the record.
Not wanting the filibuster to continue, and no doubt distressed at the furor kicked up by his earlier written statements to Sen. Paul, Eric Holder did a quick revision and stated that the POTUS did not have the power, after all, to order the killing of Americans on American soil if they were not "engaged in combat." Sen. Paul, satisfied that Holder was now telling him the truth as opposed to what he'd said in writing just days before, ended his filibuster. (He had to go to the bathroom, after all, and that takes precedence.)
The Paper of Record, the NYT, did not see fit to explain it this way, opting instead for reporting today that Holder said what Paul wanted to hear, that Americans weren't going to be killed by the POTUS on American soil.
As I was listening to NPR's evening report yesterday in which they announced Brennan's confirmation, I was startled to hear them state that in response to Rand's inquiries, that Holder had said that the president did not have the authority to kill Americans with a drone on U.S. soil. I was shocked because I had just written earlier that day about the contents of Holder's letter to Rand stating the opposite of this.
So in short, neither the Paper of Record nor the most esteemed public radio news show NPR, thought it necessary to explain to their audience that Holder had just reversed his earlier position.
Reuters, at least, managed to make this at least a little clearer, reporting in a short article entitled: ""Eric Holder Clarifies Policy on Drone Attacks on U.S. Soil." Of course, the headline's use of "clarifies" is not really accurate. The appropriate word would have been "reverses."
Or rather, better and more accurately still, their headline should have said something like this: "Eric Holder Muddies the Waters on Drone Attacks on U.S. Soil." Because what Holder (and his boss Obama) did, was semantically retreat on their earlier stance in the face of resistance. But what should be clear to all who aren't convinced by the reassurances of Mr. Holder, Mr. McCain, and Mr. Yoo is that the White House now believes that it can use lethal force on anyone anywhere, without any due process or oversight. Who needs oversight and due process when we have "a dedicated, longstanding, easily replaceable-leadership enemy that is hellbent on our destruction?"
Let's examine also McCain's description of the "war on terror" further. If this hellbent enemy has an "easily replaceable-leadership," then it doesn't really matter how many of its leaders the U.S. captures, tortures, and kills with drones or Spec Ops teams wearing night vision goggles. Because if they're so hellbent and they're longstanding and dedicated, and their leaders are easily replaceable, then this is a war that can only be waged forever, and never won.