Editorial

Editorial: Rand Paul makes a point about targeting terrorists in U.S.

Sen. Rand Paul speaking on the floor of

Sen. Rand Paul speaking on the floor of the Senate on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Mar. 6, 2013) (Credit: AP)

Give Sen. Rand Paul style points for old-school flavor.

The Kentucky Republican filibustered for 13 hours into Thursday morning, delaying the eventual confirmation of John Brennan as CIA director, to make a point about the administration's targeted killings of suspected terrorists, including American citizens. And he did it the old-fashioned way -- by actually standing in the well of the Senate and talking and talking and talking . . .

Paul's performance, which exploded on social media, prompting other senators to come to the floor to speak, is news because the modern-day virtual filibuster has become routine. It's all but impossible to get anything done without 60 votes -- the supermajority that's needed to break a filibuster. But a senator only has to signal the intention to block debate or a vote, and a filibuster is assumed to be ongoing until votes are rounded up to stop it. That makes obstruction too easy and has contributed to congressional dysfunction.


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Paul at least put himself on the line publicly, and made an important point. He wants assurances from President Barack Obama that American citizens who are suspected terrorists will not be targeted for death inside the United States. Pressed on the point in a Senate hearing on Wednesday, Attorney General Eric Holder first said targeting citizens here was imaginable in a national emergency, but finally agreed it would be unconstitutional. Where were the Democrats on this critical civil liberties issue?

The administration needs to give clear answers on targeted killings. It's an extraordinary power for any president to claim for himself with no role for Congress or the courts. Paul's talkathon can't be dismissed as just a clever stab for the national spotlight. He rightly used the Senate floor to demand more accountability from the White House.

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