Democrats push ‘drone judge’ past fil­i­buster Lan­drieu, Manchin side with Repub­li­cans

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY STEPHEN DI­NAN

Se­nate Democrats cleared the path Wed­nes­day to con­firm the so-called “drone judge,” the lawyer who wrote memos jus­ti­fy­ing the govern­ment’s abil­ity to tar­get and kill an Amer­i­can cit­i­zen over­seas with­out his first hav­ing been con­victed by a crim­i­nal court.

Har­vard Law School pro­fes­sor David Bar­ron, whom Pres­i­dent Obama nom­i­nated to a federal ap­peals court, cleared a Repub­li­can fil­i­buster, set­ting up a fi­nal vote later this week.

The 52-43 vote saw two Democrats de­fect and vote with the Repub­li­cans to up­hold the fil­i­buster: Sens. Mary L. Lan­drieu of Louisiana and Joe Manchin III of West Vir­ginia.

Mr. Bar­ron wouldn’t have cleared save for Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Harry Reid’s rules change last year, which made it eas­ier for him to break fil­i­busters of pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nees.

In­deed, Mr. Bar­ron might not have cleared any­way, but for the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s de­ci­sion to re­lease memos he wrote while in the Obama Jus­tice Depart­ment that laid out the le­gal jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for killing Amer­i­cans with drone at­tacks.

“I be­lieve that ev­ery Amer­i­can has the right to know when their govern­ment be­lieves it is al­lowed to kill them,” said Sen. Ron Wy­den, Ore­gon Demo­crat, who sup­ported Mr. Bar­ron’s nom­i­na­tion and who said in the end he agreed with Mr. Bar­ron’s le­gal rea­son­ing in the memo.

That rea­son­ing is still clas­si­fied. Though the key memo was shared with sen­a­tors in pri­vate, it hasn’t been re­leased pub­licly. That could hap­pen soon, how­ever, af­ter the Jus­tice Depart­ment this week con­ceded a judge’s rul­ing that the drone memos should be made pub­lic.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has used the le­gal rea­son­ing to jus­tify a drone at­tack that killed U.S.-born An­war al-Awlaki in Ye­men in 2011.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion has ar­gued that al-Awlaki, an imam, posed an im­mi­nent threat to the U.S. be­cause he was in­volved in po­ten­tial al Qaeda plots against the coun­try.

Sen. Rand Paul, Ken­tucky Repub­li­can, said the memo should scare Amer­i­cans and make them ques­tion whether Mr. Bar­ron was fit to be a judge.

“I can­not and will not sup­port a life­time ap­point­ment of some­one who be­lieves it is OK to kill an Amer­i­can cit­i­zen not in­volved in com­bat with­out a trial,” he said.

Repub­li­cans said the prob­lems with Mr. Bar­ron ran deeper than just the memos, though, ar­gu­ing he’s shown an ea­ger­ness to­ward ju­di­cial ac­tivism.

“He ap­pears to view the federal ju­di­ciary as a po­lit­i­cal branch of our govern­ment, not the ju­di­cial branch — in­ter­pret­ing law in­stead of mak­ing law,” said Sen. Charles E. Grass­ley, the rank­ing Repub­li­can on the Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, which re­viewed the nom­i­na­tion.


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