Stand with Rand for the Bill of Rights: Defend our liberties or watch them slip away

Rand Paul
(Photo credit: CSPAN)

The nomination of David Barron to the First Circuit Court of Appeals is not about transparency, but rather the right to due process guaranteed in the Constitution, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) explained this morning.

“I rise today to oppose the nomination of anyone who would argue that the President has the power to kill American citizens not involved in combat,” said Paul in a 31-minute speech on the Senate floor. “I rise today to say that there is no legal precedent for killing American citizens not directly involved in combat and that any nominee who rubber stamps and grants such power to a President is not worthy of being placed one step away from the Supreme Court.”

The Obama administration has indicated that it will make public the controversial memo written by Barron that gave President Barack Obama the legal justification for the assassination of American citizens accused of terrorist ties, including those who are not involved in combat. Paul, however, explained that the issue the Senate must face isn’t transparency, but the substance of the memo.

“It isn’t about seeing the Barron memos. It is about what they say. I believe the Barron memos disrespect the Bill of Rights,” Paul explained. “The nomination before us, though, is about killing American citizens NOT engaged in combat,” The nominee, David Barron, has written a defense of drone executions of American citizens NOT directly involved in combat.”

Floundering Old Guard Republicans re-launch attacks on Rand Paul

Back in March, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) propelled himself to the forefront of Republican politics when he led an inspiring 13-hour filibuster against the confirmation of CIA nominee John Brennan.

For the entirety of his procedural protest, Paul and several of his colleagues, most notably Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Mike Lee (R-UT), highlighted the constitutional problems with President Barack Obama’s drones policy, which is largely consistent with the views of his hawkish predecessor and many of today’s conservatives. Paul would go onto win the CPAC straw poll the following week and has been a frequent voice of opposition to the Washington political establishment on foreign policy.

The reaction from the Old Guard Republicans was expected. Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and John McCain (R-AZ) both sided with President Obama on drones and foreign policy and admonished Paul from the Senate floor with the latter referring to his colleague from Kentucky a “wacko bird.” Bill Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, called Paul’s foreign policy views “dangerous” and tried to label him as an “neo-isolationist.” Jennifer Rubin, the Washington Post’s token Republican, has also taken shots at Paul on foreign policy, though with little effect.

Rand Paul Issues Second Letter Asking the FBI About its Drone Use

On March 6th, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) held a 13-hour long filibuster to rally against this administration’s threatening drone policy concerning the targeting of American citizens overseas. He also used the time he had to ask broader questions dealing with the potential targeting of Americans on U.S. soil, which weren’t fully answered.

On June 20th, Sen. Paul requested more answers concerning the current U.S. drone use. Unfortunately, the Senator did not obtain any responses to his first letter, which was directed to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. According to the official release, Sen. Paul questioned the FBI Director Robert Mueller on whether the agency is actively using drones without governance policy, which would be the only way to assure the lawful use of the unmanned devices is authorized.

With the first letter, Sen. Paul asked the FBI for details on the period in which drones have been in use by the agency, and accurate information on whether these devices are armed.

Sen. Paul has now issued a second letter since the FBI failed to provide answers to his questions after Robert Mueller testified before Congress on June 19th claiming that the FBI does operate done aircrafts.

Obama Upset that Americans Distrust Government

“[I]f people can’t trust not only the executive branch but also don’t trust Congress and don’t trust federal judges to make sure that we’re abiding by the Constitution, due process and Rule of Law, then we’re going to have some problems here.” — Barack Obama

Those words were uttered by Obama recently in response to the unfolding scandal surrounding the revelation that the NSA is collecting data on every American, and I have to agree with him. If we can’t trust our very own government, made up of elected officials who have taken an oath to protect and defend the Constitution from all enemies, foreign and domestic; and if we can’t trust the army of bureaucrats employed by government to execute these laws and policies, then we do indeed have a problem.

And for all of those Americans currently engaged in weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth, who are acting as if this monitoring of the private thoughts of every American is somehow sinister and unconstitutional, who “…warn that tyranny [is] always lurking just around the corner”, as Obama said to the students at Ohio State University; well, as Obama also said “You should reject these voices. Because what they suggest is that our brave, and creative, and unique experiment in self-rule is somehow just a sham with which we can’t be trusted.”

And why shouldn’t we trust our government? It’s not like the NSA (National Security Agency) has been collecting data on virtually every phone call, text message, email, internet search, Facebook post, and pretty much all other forms of digital communication used by more than 300 million Americans.

NDAA Passes House, Indefinite Detention Still in Statute


While the nation was fully focused on the NSA scandals and Edward Snowden, Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act of 2014. Republicans who voted no on H. R. 1960, the National Defense Authorization Act of 2014, included Rep. Justin Amash (MI-03),and Rep. Thomas Massie (KY-04).

Out of the nearly 200 NDAA amendments introduced to the House for voting, only one could have prevented the mandatory military custody of an American citizen without charge or trial: the Smith-Gibson Amendment would eliminate the indefinite military detention of any person taken into custody under the authority of the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF). This amendment failed by receiving 200 ayes and 226 nays. Out of the 226 votes in opposition to this article, 213 came from Republican congressmen.

Through the NDAA, the U.S. Congress determines how much of the budget can be dedicated to military spending. With the passing of the NDAA of 2014, Congress kept policies that have been in effect since the Bush administration without challenging the request for $614 million required for military construction and civilian infrastructure projects for Guam.

Big Brother Looking Out for Us or Just Looking at Us?

Mike Herrera is a songwriter and record producer from Bremerton, Washington. He hosts The Mike Herrera Hour every Friday night on IDOBI.com. You can catch more of Mike’s musings on Tumblr.

What if I told you that the government knows you are reading this? In an article on June 6, 2013 by Glenn Greenwald at The Guardian, more damning evidence surfaced that “NSA PRISM program taps in to user data of Apple, Google and others. The top-secret PRISM program claims direct access to servers of firms including Google, Apple and Facebook.” However, one day before from Greenwald again, “NSA collecting phone records of millions of Verizon customers daily.” Did he say daily? With these two huge stories on top of all the recent White House scandals — including kill lists, Predator drones, and the IRS debacle — this could read as a racy Hollywood drama much like the aptly named TV show, Scandal.

The real life scandals are worse! I feel consciously detached from the fact that some if not all of us are being recorded by the government. Many US foreign policies and our ongoing policing of the world has made me nervous to be an American on foreign soil many times over. I’m suddenly hit from behind by the fact that a large majority of US citizens don’t have a clue and don’t really want to know that everything you search online is recorded, every email saved in a government file. Ignorance is bliss. But when it suddenly affects those individuals, it’s too late.

Holder’s Drone Memo: More Questions Than Answers

In advance of the President’s counterterrorism speech today at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C. – where it’s anticipated he will lay out new restrictions for America’s drone programs - Attorney General Eric Holder released a 5-page memo disclosing that, since 2009, America has assassinated four of its own citizens in “counterterrorism operations” - more specifically, via drone strike.

Unfortunately, the memo’s admissions create more questions than answers.

1) The memo asserts that targeting and killing of citizens can only happen outside the U.S., tacitly readdressing the concerns Senator Rand Paul addressed in his 13 hour filibuster. But the right to due process is not contingent on geography; like it or not, these rights extend to citizens overseas. The fundamental assertion in the memo is, as Spencer Ackerman points out, that “Holder defended killing Americans the administration believes to be members of al-Qaeda without due process, a constitutionally questionable proposition.”

Big Brother Government Says “Trust Me”

Big Brother Obama

We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power.” — George Orwell, 1984

On May 5th, speaking at Ohio State University, Barack Obama lamented that “Unfortunately, you’ve grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that’s at the root of all our problems. Some of these same voices also do their best to gum up the works. They’ll warn that tyranny always lurking just around the corner. You should reject these voices. Because what they suggest is that our brave, and creative, and unique experiment in self-rule is somehow just a sham with which we can’t be trusted.”

Obama has it exactly wrong. It is not that our experiment in self-rule is a sham, or that it can’t be trusted, it is that the experiment has been undermined by the growing power of government in our lives, the very danger of which the Founding Fathers warned us. James Madison, the “Father of the Constitution” declared that “The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse.” Obama tries to convince us of just the opposite; namely, that we should place our trust in a benevolent government which will take care of us, and all we have to do is give up a little freedom.

A View of U.S. Drone Policy from the Ground

Based on some of my discussions with people who tend to support U.S. foreign policy in general and the drone policy in particular, there seems to be a lack of empathy for those who have been victims of errant bombs (I’m told these people “hate us for our freedoms”). I think sometimes we Americans have no idea what it must be like to live anywhere in the third world as opposed to a superpower. It’s difficult for me to imagine what it must be like to live any place the U.S. is hunting terrorists with soldiers or drones. Would I be worried that my friends or family might be killed by mistake?

This isn’t to say that the U.S. should not hunt terrorists, drones or otherwise, but I do think it’s time for a serious debate about when and how drones should be used. The drones in of themselves are not the problem, it’s the drone policy. What is the cost/benefit of using drones in targeting these people? Can this be done without harming innocent bystanders? Are drones being used when less destructive means are available? Is this policy counterproductive in “winning the hearts and minds” of people who might otherwise fight against Islamic fundamentalists?

The video clip below is from the testimony of one individual who has experienced the reality of U.S. drone policy first hand. Despite this, Farea al-Muslimi is otherwise grateful for his experiences with America, Americans, and American generosity. His heart and mind seems to be on the side of America. His testimony offers a perspective we would all do well to consider when thinking about these questions.

Chatting with Igor Birman

Igor Birman

“I think the impressionable libertarian kids are going to save our nation.” — Igor Birman

Late last year, I ran across video of Igor Birman, who immigrated to the United States with his family as the Soviet Union was collapsing, warning against a more centralized government healthcare system. Birman, who now serves as Chief of Staff to Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA), was explaining that the Soviet system relied on rationing of healthcare, which would be the end result of ObamaCare.

Earlier this week, I had the chance to sit down with Birman to discuss his story, the transformation of the United States into a police state, ObamaCare, the budget, and other destructive economic policies that are being pushed by the White House.

When asked about the recent filibuster in the Senate, Birman applauded Sen. Rand Paul and noted that it was refreshing to hear a politician be so passionate. He also compared the policies implemented as part of the “war on terror”  to life in the Soviet Union, where the government frequently searched homes of ordinary citizens without cause, which he called a “fact of life,” noting that “you just accepted it as much as you did the cold weather and the long lines for the basic staples of food and water.”

Birman experienced this first-hand. “A week before we left for the United States, we went to say goodbye to my uncle in St. Petersburg and when we came back, we found our apartment just absolutely ravaged,” recalled Birman. “The authorities must have been looking for whatever lame excuse they could find to either delay or disrupt our departure.”

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