New CIA Director John Brennan on Friday took his oath of office behind closed doors, vowing to uphold and serve the U.S. Constitution. It seems like a very uncontroversial event.
However, Brennan is once again being criticized, this time for a symbolic gesture he made during his swearing in ceremony.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters on Friday that Brennan was “sworn in with his hand on an original draft of the Constitution that had George Washington’s personal handwriting and annotations on it, dating from 1787.”
Brennan reportedly asked for a document from the National Archives that would adequately “reaffirm his commitment to the rule of law as he took his oath of office as director of the CIA.”
Pretty cool right? Well, the only problem, as blogger Marcy Wheeler notes, the document that Brennan used at his swearing in is missing a very important part of the U.S. Constitution that governs the country today — the Bill of Rights.
The vitally important Bill of Rights, which includes freedom of speech, freedom of the press and the right to bear arms, didn’t go into effect until December of 1791 after ratification by the states.
To be clear, there is certainly no evidence to suggest that Brennan intentionally chose a document that excluded the Bill of Rights. But the irony of the document selection given the current controversy surrounding the federal government’s drone program is noteworthy regardless.
The Bill of Rights includes the right to due process (Fifth Amendment) and the right to trial by jury (Sixth Amendment), both key issues in the heated debate over drone strikes.
The White House and Attorney General Eric Holder both confirmed earlier this week that the executive branch of the U.S. government does not have the authority to carry out a drone strike on a non-combatant American citizen inside the United States. This admission, of course, came only after Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) staged a nearly 13 hour long old-school filibuster to block Brennan’s nomination on Wednesday, repeatedly demanding an answer on the issue.
Other outlets criticized Brennan for not using a Bible at his swearing in. It is unclear at this point whether past CIA directors have used a Bible or whether it is customary for them to do so.
Do you think it matters that Brennan took his oath of office on a draft Constitution that excludes the Bill of Rights?