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(R-Kentucky) has been
trying to get a straight answer about whether the United States
government reserves the legal right to assassinate American
citizens on U.S. soil? Well, Attorney General Eric Holder has just
answered the question in a letter to Paul, partially reprinted by
Mother Jones. Excerpt:
As members of this administration have previously indicated, the
US government has not carried out drone strikes in the United
States and has no intention of doing so. As a policy matter
moreover, we reject the use of military force where
well-established law enforcement authorities in this country
provide the best means for incapacitating a terrorist threat. We
have a long history of using the criminal justice system to
incapacitate individuals located in our country who pose a threat
to the United States and its interests abroad. Hundreds of
individuals have been arrested and convicted of terrorism-related
offenses in our federal courts.
The question you have posed is therefore entirely hypothetical,
unlikely to occur, and one we hope no president will ever have to
confront. It is possible, I suppose, to imagine an extraordinary
circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under
the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the
President to authorize the military to use lethal force within the
territory of the United States. For example, the president could
conceivably have no choice but to authorize the military to use
such force if necessary to protect the homeland in the
circumstances like a catastrophic attack like the ones suffered on
December 7, 1941, and September 11, 2001.
Whole thing here.
The Reason-Rupe poll found last week that
57 percent of Americans think assassinating Americans is
unconstitutional. More Reason commentary on the topic here.
UPDATE: You can
read the whole letter here.
UPDATE 2: Rand Paul responds here.
The U.S. Attorney General’s refusal to rule out the possibility
of drone strikes on American citizens and on American soil is more
than frightening – it is an affront the Constitutional due process
rights of all Americans.
Paul also received a response
letter from John Brennan, whose nomination to CIA director Paul
has been opposing, in which Brennan says the CIA “does not conduct
lethal operations inside the United States.” Sen. Paul’s office
comments: “Notably missing from Mr. Brennan’s response are answers
to the myriad other questions Sen. Paul posed to him in previous
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