That said, if it was a political move, it seems to have worked.
But note that I only agree to some degree.
I disagree with this:
But decrying the administration for possible drone assaults against noncombatant American citizens within the United States is a phony issue, a modern-day equivalent of black-helicopter-phobia.Sorry, it's not.
Given that the Texas Department of Public Safety used a helicopter to lethally fire on a truck allegedly carrying illegal immigrants last year, it's not a phony issue at all. We know Obama is, at bottom line, as nutbar about the War on Drugs as most Republicans, and is like a weather vane on immigration issues.
Besides, as the Guardian notes, Holder carefully couched his language:
Attorney general Eric Holder then clarified the administration's policy on Thursday and said that Obama would not use his authority to order a drone to kill an American on US soil who was "not engaged in combat."But it's still the White House that defines, on American soil as well as outside, who's a "combatant."
And, as the New York Times notes, that's just the tip of the iceberg.
What, exactly, does the Obama administration mean by “engaged in combat”? The extraordinary secrecy of this White House makes the answer difficult to know. We have some clues, and they are troubling.Troubling indeed, given everything in Afghanistan.
What if the Texas DPS said: "We believed that truck had illegal immigrants in it, therefore everybody we shot is an illegal immigrant"? Well, that's what Obama has consistently claimed about "combatants" and drone strikes in Afghanistan, and it's a claim that Holder very carefully refused to surrender inside US borders.
As Ryan Goodman notes in that New York Times piece:
Is there any reason to believe that military drones will soon be hovering over Manhattan, aiming to kill Americans believed to be involved in terrorist financing? No.And David Corn gave Obama and Holder a "pass" for another refusal to offer such specificity.
But is it well past time for the United States government to specify, precisely, its views on whom it thinks it can kill in the struggle against Al Qaeda and other terrorist forces? The answer is yes.The Obama administration’s continued refusal to do so should alarm any American concerned about the constitutional right of our citizens — no matter what evil they may or may not be engaged in — to due process under the law. For those Americans, Mr. Holder’s seemingly simple but maddeningly vague letter offers no reassurance.
This is also why, for years, I've considered David Corn overrated. As an investigative journalist, he's good at getting tips, but not so good, a lot of times, on connecting the dots.
And, here's Glenn Greenwald, actually connecting the dots while calling shenanigans on the likes of Corn, his scoffing at Paul, and his apparently deliberate misreading of Holder.
And, the Economist calls shenanigans on Paul. Great takedown here:
The problem with Mr Paul's filibuster was that it was small. He is a man of tender conscience with some legitimate concerns about the legal mess that is the war on terror. But though he may claim, as here to Fox News, that he has clarified those questions, he has not....Bingo. And, David Corn, in halfway recognizing that, at the same time, underscored what the Economist said about liberals having even weaker knees on this issue:
He secured no answers at all about the legality of drone strikes overseas (which are, let us not forget, the only drone strikes to have ever happened, outside the feverish imaginations of the black-helicopters crowd). Nor did he extract any information from the government about the wider legality of that post September 11th assertion of world-wide war powers. ...
There is an urgent need for better oversight of America's war on terror. ... Ignore the praise for Mr Paul this week. He has proved nothing about the right's appetite for such hard, risky work, and shown instead a movement excited by any chance to rally round a popular cause, and feel good about itself.
Conservatives are well placed to provide that oversight, because most Democrats are disinclined to criticise Mr Obama in public over his use of drones, secret detentions and intelligence sharing with legally dodgy foreign agencies.That's you being criticized, David Corn.
Meanwhile, the Times now has an in-depth story about the US hunt for Anwar Al-Awlaki, speaking of US citizens killed by drones without legal due process. As Greenwald notes, it's pretty "sympathetic" to Team Obama, especially in the legal rationalizations area.