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Pew study and history fly in the face of McCain’s criticism of Sen. Paul

Historic photo: CIA headquarters in Langley, Va. (Carol M. Highsmith, U.S. Library of Congress collection)Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) might want to make note of a recent study conducted by The Pew Research Center.

McCain has criticized Sen. Rand Paul for demanding answers from the administration of President Barack Obama about targeted killings of U.S. citizens.

It would be beneficial to McCain to re-read some U.S. history and to note the Pew Center's findings.

The Pew study found only 3 out of 10 Americans trust the government.

Lack of trust was one reason for Sen. Rand Paul’s filibuster.

There was already an actual killing on record, although not on U.S. soil.

Anwar al Awlaki, who was born in New Mexico, was killed in Yemen by a drone strike. The U.S. was not at war with Yemen when the drone strike was launched.

Al Awlaki was  a U.S. citizen placed on the Obama administration’s targeted kill list. He is believed to be the first U.S. citizen killed on that basis, although it is probably more accurate in light of history to categorize it as a publicly disclosed kill.

After 9/11/2001, al Awlaki was a media darling, interviewed by numerous U.S. outlets and praised for moderation by newspapers like The New York Times. The imam was invited to government functions reaching to the level of the office of Secretary of the Army. By the time he was droned in 2011, al Awlaki had not been charged with a crime in the U.S. and he was not on ‘Most Wanted’ lists.

The government believed al Awlaki had influenced terrorists like Nidal Hassan, a soldier in the U.S. Army. Ironically, the Obama administration’s official narrative is that Hassan wasn’t a terrorist; the government classified the shootings at Ft. Hood as “workplace violence.”

Various reports surfaced suggesting al-Awlaki’s writings and speeches had an impact on people who carried out acts of violence, and some of his writings reflected hatred for Americans.

When Sen. Paul began his filibuster, he delayed confirmation of John O. Brennan, the man chosen by Obama to head the CIA.

The case of al Awlaki even bothered some defense hawks. While the imam appeared to morph into a fairly typical Islamist firebrand, most bothersome was the fact that no evidence had been publicly presented in a court of law or trial of any type—he hadn’t even been indicted. That a president could claim such power, the power to kill a U.S. citizen in the absence of a criminal proceeding of any kind, should theoretically bother anyone who values freedom.

Some of us weigh consequences of what government does with the future in mind. That’s what Sen. Paul did.

On the other hand, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) chastised Paul publicly for his filibuster. McCain overlooked the level of distrust the public has for government, and he definitely overlooked the fact that once one citizen has been droned without due process, the door is open for more to bite the dust years into the future.

Personally, I’d have liked to see every Republican or Libertarian in Washington lining up behind Sen. Paul on this matter.

That a former Republican presidential nominee took the side that opposes freedom as well as the U.S. Constitution is troubling.

Some legacy conservative pundits claim Rand was overreacting or posturing. Those same pundits should re-read historical accounts like the Church Committee hearings on intelligence activities in 1975.

Proceedings from those hearings included this:

“The Committee’s investigation has, however, also confirmed substantial wrongdoing. And it has been demonstrated that intelligence activities have not generally been governed and controlled in accord with the fundamental principles of our constitutional system of government.”

Even before the Church Committee investigated the CIA and other intelligence operations, some in government knew what the future might hold. In 1940 Attorney General Robert Jackson pointed out:

“Those who are in office are apt to regard as ‘subversive’ the activities of any of those who would bring about a change of administration. Some of our soundest constitutional doctrines were once punished as subversive.”

The Pew study and U.S. history suggest McCain be sent to a corner with a dunce cap atop his head.

(Commentary by Kay B. Day/Mar. 11, 2013)

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