(NaturalNews) Recently, when Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., filibustered the nomination of John Brennan, President Obama's choice to head up the CIA, because he and Attorney General Eric Holder both claimed the administration had the right to use drones to strike perceived U.S. enemies anywhere in the world - including inside our own country - Paul got Holder to admit, finally, that no, the U.S. government has no such authority.
That, at least, was the perception, when reports surfaced in the aftermath of Holder's alleged admission.
But a closer look at what Holder did - and, more importantly, did not - say about the issue, reveals what some legal and legislative analysts believe are several large loopholes.
Here is what Holder wrote in a brief, terse letter to Paul following his nearly 13-hour filibuster:
It has come to my attention that you have now asked an additional question: "Does the President have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil?" The answer to that question is no.
That should have ended the discussion, right?
Not so fast.
Looks like the administration left a few gaping loopholes
Notes William Grigg at LewRockwell.com:
What Holder is saying, in substantive terms, is that the President does have the supposed authority to use a drone to kill an American who is engaged in "combat," whether here or abroad. "Combat" can consist of expressing support for Muslims mounting armed resistance against U.S. military aggression, which was the supposed crime committed by Anwar al-Awlaki, or sharing the surname and DNA of a known enemy of the state, which was the offense committed by Awlaki's 16-year-old son, Abdel. ... Holder selected a carefully qualified question in order to justify a narrowly tailored answer that reserves an expansive claim of executive power to authorize summary executions by the president. That's how totalitarians operate.
Shortly after Holder released his letter, and before Paul was likely able to get his voice back, noted constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley weighed in on his blog site:
No, President Obama still claims the right to kill U.S. citizens on his sole authority. However, Holder now says that, if the citizen is "not engaged in combat on American soil," the President cannot vaporize him. The answer leaves the constitutional claim of Obama even more confused and conflicted. Does this mean we have a third category now under the policy: citizen, citizen terrorist, and citizen non-combatant terrorist? The difference appears to determine whether you can be vaporized or speak to counsel but Holder is not explaining to the citizenry.
Clearly, Holder's response, upon further consideration, left much to chance, constitutional law scholars are noting.
Being intentionally elusive to preserve their right to kill Americans merely deemed an enemy
It is not clear what Holder means by "engaged in combat" since the Administration memo shows that the Administration is using an absurdly broad definition of "imminent" threat under the kill list policy. Since the Administration has continued to assert that terrorists are engaged in a war against the U.S., the terse reply of Holder seems designed to preserve later flexibility.
Moreover, there is nothing in the constitutional claim of the Administration that reflects such a limitation. ...
Once again, the administration is attempting to be too clever by half. The magic phrase in Holder's letter, "engaged in combat," is very narrow.
From law professor Ryan Goodman, who wrote in The New York Times March 13:
What, exactly, does the Obama administration mean by "engaged in combat"? The extraordinary secrecy of this White House makes the answer difficult to know. We have some clues, and they are troubling. ...
The Obama administration, like the Bush administration before it, has acted with an overly broad definition of what it means to be engaged in combat.
From the looks of it, Holder and Obama haven't really answered Paul's concern - or that of tens of millions of Americans - at all.