I’m still trying to figure out what he’s thinking here:
Remember, this is the same Rand Paul who used a 13-hour filibuster to force an admission from Eric Holder that the government wouldn’t use drones to kill innocent Americans on U.S. soil. But a guy holding a gun who robbed a liquor store is fair game?
Libertarians flew into a frenzy and Paul’s office released these remarks yesterday:
My comments last night left the mistaken impression that my position on drones had changed.
Let me be clear: it has not. Armed drones should not be used in normal crime situations. They only may only be considered in extraordinary, lethal situations where there is an ongoing, imminent threat. I described that scenario previously during my Senate filibuster.
But how exactly is a man who robs a liquor store “extraordinary” and not an “ordinary crime situation”? There were approximately 354,000 armed robberies in the United States in 2011, according to the FBI. Remember, Paul declared in the clip that he didn’t care if a drone killed an armed robber. Is he saying every one of those robbers is a potential drone target? Then there’s the doctrine of imminence that he used repeatedly during his filibuster. It’s a bit elastic, but the example that was bandied about was a man pointing a bazooka at the Capitol building. By that standard, a man carrying a gun and $50 seems a bit, er, non-threatening.
He says later on in the clip: “But if someone’s actively running around with a gun, you don’t need a warrant. That’s the way our system works.” But there’s a big difference between policemen engaging a man with a gun (who might very well drop it and surrender) and a drone killing the man remotely. Also, what if the drone operators are mistaken and the target is completely innocent? That’s just as bad as assassinating a man sitting in a cafe, Paul’s famous example from the filibuster.
Maybe Paul was being politically careful in the wake of the Boston attack. Maybe he was speaking off the cuff. But this seems like a can of worms he never needed to open. Cavuto asked him about thermal imaging, not drone strikes. Paul’s filibuster was primarily useful because it forced the administration to admit a limit on executive power and started a much-needed discussion about drones. But that discussion was always loaded with tricky questions and hypotheticals to which there wasn’t always a clear answer. Those tricky questions and hypotheticals, post-Boston, seem to have finally tripped Paul up.
Paul is still the most interesting and principled member of the Senate. But his comments are a reminder that he’s still a politician…and that the security/privacy debate is always a nuanced one.