A new petition went up Wednesday on “We The People,” the White House website created by President Barack Obama as an ostensible direct conduit between individual Americans and the Oval Office.
The petition is a challenge to the President, requesting an answer to Senator Rand Paul’s (R-Ky.) call for clarity on whether the Commander In Chief can authorize drone strikes against U.S. citizens, without due process, on U.S. soil.
The petition has a goal of 100,000 signatures. As of Thursday afternoon, it had a long way to go.
One of the staffers here at Personal Liberty went to the page, intending to sign the petition, but was stopped dead in his tracks when he realized he’d first have to create a whitehouse.gov account and fill out an online form requiring his full name and a valid email address (with an optional field for ZIP code).
That’s a standing requirement; one that isn’t unique to the Paul petition. Some (certainly not all) petitioners may find that step innocuous enough, if they’re visiting the site to sign a petition calling for an end to Daylight Savings Time.
But there’s irony in requiring a handover even of basic personal information — information that offers a reasonable chance of revealing to the Executive Branch the way in which your identity and your views on public policy entwine — when the very topic under discussion essentially seeks an assurance from the President that he won’t violate the Constitution and have you killed.
Since its September 2011 launch, We The People has twice raised the 30-day signature threshold needed before the White House would acknowledge or respond to a petition. The threshold originally stood at 5,000 signatures but was raised to 25,000 within a month of launching. It was raised to 100,000 in January.
The Obama Administration, through Attorney General Eric Holder, did respond to Senator Paul Thursday in a snarky two-sentence letter, assuring him that “no,” the President doesn’t have “authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil.” But at the time of this writing, the petition remained active.