Color Me Unimpressed by Holder’s Response to Paul
As everyone likely knows by now, Rand Paul has ended his remarkable talking filibuster because Attorney General Holder officially responded “no” to the question “Does the President have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil?” Is it just me, or does Holder’s answer actually raise more questions than it answers?
(1) “Engaged in combat” seems like a much broader standard than “senior operational leader,” which the recently disclosed White Paper described as a necessary condition of killing an American citizen overseas. Does that mean the President can kill an American citizen inside the US who is a lower-ranking member of al-Qaeda or an associated force?
(2) Why (to second Marcy Wheeler) did Holder delete one word from Paul’s question, changing “not actively engaged in combat” to “not engaged in combat”? Does that indicate that the President can kill an American inside the US whose activities qualify as “engaging in combat” even if they would not qualify as “actively engaging in combat”? What is the difference? What does the US understand by “actively”?
(3) What does “engaged in combat” mean? That is a particularly important question, given that Holder did not restrict killing an American inside the US to senior operational leaders and deleted “actively” from Paul’s question. Does “engaging” require participation in planning or executing a terrorist attack? Does any kind of direct participation in hostilities qualify? Do acts short of direct participation in hostilities — such as financing terrorism or propagandizing — qualify? Is mere membership, however loosely defined by the US, enough?
Come on, Rand. Stand up again and get us some real answers.