We’re still trying to wrap our heads around Democratic Rep. John Conyers’ suggestion to start calling illegal immigrants “out of status” new Americans, and now Sen. Dianne Feinstein has thrown us another curve. While questioning CIA director nominee John Brennan at his confirmation hearing today, Feinstein referred to radical Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed in a Predator drone strike in 2011, as a “so-called American citizen.”


Feinstein seemed to be using “so-called” as a term of general condemnation, noting that most people think of American citizens as “upstanding” people. Critics of the administration’s recently leaked policy of targeting American Al-Qaeda members with drone strikes weren’t satisfied with that simplistic definition.

Even supporters of the administration’s drone program might want to raise a red flag over the senator’s choice of words, considering that Feinstein is currently pushing to ban 150 “military style” weapons that “upstanding” Americans now enjoy the right to purchase. When rights are at stake, words are important.