March 7, 2013
WASHINGTON — The battle over the confirmation of John Brennan to be the next CIA director entered a final phase Wednesday as a cadre of senators, led by Kentucky Republican Rand Paul, shifted the spotlight to a shadowy piece of the nominee’s legacy: the Obama administration’s use of drone strikes.
“To be bombed in your sleep? There’s nothing American about that,” said Paul, who began filibustering Brennan’s nomination on Wednesday and finished in the early hours of Thursday morning. “There’s nothing constitutional about that.” Civilian casualties are central to the debate over the use of drones, because public support hinges on the false belief that the weapons kill with surgical precision. If the public were aware of the human toll of the policy, opposition would be widespread, according to a series of HuffPost/YouGov surveys.
Noor Behram, a Pakistani photojournalist who lives in North Waziristan, has been documenting the human cost of U.S. drone policy for several years and said he “wants people to know” what the weapons have wrought. The photographer provided photos to documentary filmmaker Robert Greenwald, in Pakistan doing research and interviews for his forthcoming documentary, “UNMANNED: America’s Drone Wars,” in fall 2012. Some of Behram’s photos are used to illustrate this article.
Some Behram kept to himself, thinking they are “so horrific he didn’t want anyone to see them,” Greenwald told HuffPost. “So we’re seeing the ones he felt were painful, but not so stomach-turning it’d be impossible to look at them.”
Senators for weeks have used the Brennan nomination to press the Obama administration on its internal — and until last month secret — legal rationale for a program of extrajudicial targeted killing, including, in at least one case, of an American citizen.
A leaked outline of the administration’s legal rationale, published in February by NBC News, exacerbated the problem by highlighting the administration’s wide claim to power and a loose interpretation of the concept of “imminent threat.”
After finally agreeing to let the senators on the Intelligence Committee examine the administration’s entire set of legal documents, the committee voted on Tuesday to forward Brennan’s nomination to the full Senate.
But on Wednesday, as the nomination came to the floor of the Senate for what seemed to be a perfunctory confirmation vote, Paul announced that he would filibuster.
In the course of what ended up being a 13-hour-long speech, with an assist from allies including Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Paul discussed the range of drone strikes that have been reported, and asked for Obama to clearly articulate the limits of his power to use drones to kill, including within American borders.
“I can’t ultimately stop the nomination,” Paul said. “But what I can do it try to draw attention to this, and try to get an answer.”