WASHINGTON — Republican presidential contender Ron Paul on Wednesday suggested that the United States could assassinate journalists the same way it targeted Americans with ties to al-Qaida.
The Texas congressman again criticized President Barack Obama for approving last week's drone strikes in Yemen against a U.S. citizen who was tracked and executed based on secret intelligence that linked him to two failed terrorist attacks against the U.S. An American-born propagandist also died in the bombing. Escalating his criticism, Paul told a National Press Club luncheon that if citizens do not protest the deaths, the country will start adding reporters to its list of threats that must be taken out.
"Can you imagine being put on a list because you're a threat? What's going to happen when they come to the media? What if the media becomes a threat? ... This is the way this works. It's incrementalism," Paul said.
"It's slipping and sliding, let me tell you."
Anwar al-Awlaki, the target of the U.S. drone attack, was one of the best-known al-Qaida figures after Osama bin Laden. American intelligence officials had linked him to two thwarted attacks on U.S.-bound planes, an airliner on Christmas 2009 and cargo planes last year. The second American killed in the drone attack, Samir Kahn, was the editor of Inspire, a slick online magazine aimed at al-Qaida sympathizers in the West.
Paul likened the pair to German officials who carried out the Holocaust but were still given trials.
"All the Nazi criminals were tried. They were taken to court and then executed," Paul said. "The reason we do this is because we want to protect the rule of law."
Paul, making his second run for the Republican presidential nomination, has built a die-hard following among the GOP's libertarian wing and has worked to court anti-war conservatives.