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And Now It's Assassinations?

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. PAUL. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

What have we allowed ourselves to become? Are we no longer a Nation of laws? Have we become instead a Nation of men who make secret arrests? Are secret prisons now simply another tool of Federal Government law enforcement? Is secret rendition of individuals now permitted, out of misplaced fear? Have we decided that the writ of habeas corpus is not worth defending? Is torture now an acceptable tool for making us safe? Unfortunately, the single answer to all of these questions from the leaders of our country and to many of our citizens appears to be ``yes''.

And now we are told that assassination of foreigners as well as American citizens is legitimate and necessary to provide security for our people. It is my firm opinion that nothing could be further from the truth. Secret arrests, secret renditions, torture, and assassinations are illegal under both domestic and international law. These activities should be anathema to the citizens of a constitutional Republic.

The real threat doesn't arise from our failure to torture. Rather, desensitizing our Nation to the willful neglect and sacrifice of our civil liberties, fought and died for over the centuries, is the threat.

The concept of habeas corpus existed even before King John of England was forced in 1215 by his rebellious barons to sign the Magna Carta. This basic principle and expression of individual liberty, which has survived 800 years, greatly influenced the writing of our Constitution and our common law heritage.

Today we hardly hear a whimper, either from the American people or a stone silent U.S. Government as our cherished liberties are eradicated. Instead, we have a government that deliberately orchestrates needless fear and makes people insecure enough to ignore the reality of their lost liberties.

The latest outrage is the current administration's acknowledgment that we now have a policy that permits assassination not only of foreign suspects, but of American citizens as well. Of course the CIA has used secret assassinations in a limited fashion for decades, despite international, domestic, and moral law. When done secretly, as in the past, our government at least recognized that assassination was illegal and wrong. Frighteningly and astonishingly, however, the policy is now explicit.

National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair, in open testimony before the House Intelligence Committee on February 3 of this year, acknowledged that American citizens can indeed be assassinated at our government's discretion. The U.S. Government attempted to assassinate Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen without even charging him with a crime. We are told this evidence is secret, that he does not deserve any constitutional rights, and that some unknown individual in the administration has the authority to declare him a threat, and therefore a legitimate target for assassination.

Yes, I know, he is probably a very bad person. Yes, I know that only a few Americans are on the assassination hit list.

Yes, I know that artificially generated fear makes a large number of Americans inclined to applaud this effort which supposedly will make us safe. But if this becomes standard operating procedure and a permanent precedent is established, let me assure you that this abuse of the law will spread.

It's time for Congress and the American people to wake up to the realities of the dangers we face. We must remember, as Members of Congress, that we have taken an oath to protect and defend the Constitution from all enemies, foreign and domestic. It should not be that difficult to distinguish the difference between the danger posed by the underwear bomber and the danger posed by a government that endorses secret prisons, torture, and assassinating American citizens.

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