March 7th, 2013
02:01 PM ET
1 year ago

Rand Paul 'happy' with drone response

(CNN) – Sen. Rand Paul ended his quest Thursday to block a vote on the nomination of John Brennan to be CIA director after he received an answer from the Obama administration about his question on drones.

Paul's decision to back down cleared the way for a final Senate vote this afternoon, and the chamber confirmed Brennan in a 63-34 vote that crossed party lines.

In a letter to Paul Thursday afternoon, Attorney General Eric Holder said that the president does not have the authority to use a drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on U.S. soil.

"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," the three-sentence letter stated.

In an interview with CNN's Dana Bash, Paul said he was satisfied with the response.

"I'm quite happy with the answer," the Republican senator from Kentucky said. "I'm disappointed it took a month and a half and a root canal to get it, but we did get the answer."

Bringing attention to his question, Paul led a nearly 13-hour filibuster on the Senate floor Wednesday, blocking the confirmation process for Brennan to move forward.

The senator hit back at criticism that he was simply trying to be an obstructionist. Paul argued, rather, he was trying to get information.

"You use the leverage of your position and the procedures up here, I think, for a greater good," he said. "This is an example, I think, of trying to do something you really strongly believe in."

At 1:15 p.m. ET, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the letter was sent to Paul "within the last half hour or so."

But the senator did not see the letter until shortly after 2 p.m. ET.

Elaborating further on the administration's position, Carney said Thursday that the technology of a drone strike does not change the law.

"The president swore an oath to uphold the Constitution, and he is bound by the law, whether the lethal force in question is a drone strike or a gun shot, the law and the constitution apply in the same way," he said.

Asked by CNN National Political Correspondent Jim Acosta whether the president could use such force to prevent at attack on U.S. soil, Carney said "you can make sort of wild hypotheticals but that doesn't, they don't change the law."

"It is certainly the case that the president, in part of his oath to the Constitution, to uphold the Constitution, is sworn to protect the United States," he said. "And in event like an attack like Pearl Harbor or an attack like 9/11–obviously the president has the constitutional authority to take action to prevent those kinds of attacks, but that has nothing to do with the technology used to prevent those attacks."

Earlier this week, Paul took issue with Holder's recent admission, in which he said he could envision a scenario where a drone strike would, in fact, be ordered against Americans on U.S. soil.

While Holder said it's never been done before and he could only see it in an extraordinary circumstance, Paul said he was disturbed by the idea that an American citizen would lose his or her rights while within the country's borders.

Holder narrowed the list of those possible extraordinary circumstances Wednesday. In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, pressed Holder on whether he believed it would be constitutional to target an American terror suspect "sitting at a cafe" if the suspect didn't pose an imminent threat.

After first saying it would be "inappropriate," Holder attempted to clarify his answer by giving a firm "no."

But he also said the government has no intention of carrying out drone strikes inside the United States. Echoing what he said in a separate letter to Paul sent earlier this week, he called the possibility of domestic drone strikes "entirely hypothetical."


Filed under: Eric Holder • Rand Paul
soundoff (168 Responses)
  1. WV Gleeman

    I have a feeling we are next going to be asked what the definition of the word is, is. I truly hope Mr Paul got his attention he believes will lead him to a successful presidential run for now and allows us some time to get used to not seeing his face(or that hair) and listen to his crazy tea party lunacy.

    March 7, 2013 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  2. DocHollywood

    Republicans are setting a dangerous precedent by using the filibuster to hold cabinet appointments until they get information that in many cases are not connected to the appointee or their office. When a republican president is elected, they will find their way obstructed by democrats, who are being shown a road map by the republicans. It's pretty much a disgrace on how they're willing to destroy the democratic process to get their way. Children have been known to act more responsibly than these senators and representatives.

    March 7, 2013 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  3. Orca

    Well why couldn't Holder have simply answered the question directly when he was asked the other day? Is he that incompetent that he needs to go and ask the President how the Constitution works? Either that, or it's all a meaningless lie. Either way, it stinks on them.

    March 7, 2013 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  4. Rudy NYC

    '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," the letter states.
    -------------–
    I find the insinuations embedded with the phrasing of the question to be offensive. He asks "does the President". Why didn't he ask "does the US goverment"? I also think the response by Holder is a curt and concise reply, specific tio the scenario that was put forth ... and no more. Let's hope that once Paul figures that subtlety out that he won't ask any more questions.

    March 7, 2013 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  5. Orca

    @Wvgleeman: Upholding the constitution is not lunacy, and your labeling the Tea Party as such shows much lack of facts and tact on your part.

    March 7, 2013 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  6. john2397

    Holder did not clarify enough to include that No Non Muslims, whether American or un-American, in the United States or outside the US WILL BE KILLED USING DRONES.

    March 7, 2013 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  7. CommonCents

    What's the combat BS?

    March 7, 2013 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  8. Pratt

    Just like the FBI, local police or secret service have the right to shoot and kill a criminal who is risking the lives of americans, drones have the right to do the same thing, and this dope, Rand Paul, should know that.

    March 7, 2013 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  9. Pete

    While I think that Rand Paul is a tool, I do appreciate the debate. The use of drones against American citizens abroad, and possibly at home, should be discussed.

    March 7, 2013 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  10. CommonCents

    American's have the right to due process........period.

    March 7, 2013 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  11. Anonymous

    It's a shame such an easy answer is hard to get from politicians. This uproar could have been avoided if both Brennen and Holder had given direct answers when asked this during congressional hearings. Fortunately, Sen Paul held their feet to the fire. People need to demand more direct answers from politicians no matter what their party affiliation.

    March 7, 2013 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  12. al

    Rand Paul is as big a nut job as his father is. He needs to step away and go bother someone in some other country. He is the most worthless man in government service today.

    March 7, 2013 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  13. DAC

    ... if it was 5 years ago and President W. of HIS party was authorizing/advocating drone use (and he was), Rand Paul would be all for there use anywhere that there was a terror threat! HYPOCRITE

    March 7, 2013 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  14. Robert in Toronto

    Seems that Rand Paul is simply making noise to get himself noticed for a run up the road and likes the smell of his own exhaust. He wasted valuable time and money on a p.r. stunt, nothing more.

    March 7, 2013 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  15. T. Lee

    "Citizens" are killed everyday by law enforecment without "due process" Congressman Paul (idiot) which is quite o.k. with you, your congressional peers, and the American people as a whole when such individuals are found to be threatening the safety and well being because of their actions.

    March 7, 2013 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  16. Heywood

    Paul is a spineless jelly fish. Lack of testicles like his father. He could care less about the security of this country, hes far more interested in political gamesmanship. How they elected thies gutless wonder in Kentucky is beyond me, but I do hope this is remembered when he runs again, for any office. Our security does and should not take a back seat to some terrorists inalianable rights.

    March 7, 2013 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  17. harmbringer

    actualy, despite my distate for holders last statement on this issue – the letter above is far more reasuring.

    March 7, 2013 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  18. scarf

    I think Paul was just worried about Obama using a Hellfire missile to muss his hair at his next campaign appearance.

    March 7, 2013 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  19. Rudy NYC

    Orca

    Well why couldn't Holder have simply answered the question directly when he was asked the other day?
    ------------------–
    The question in the letter is not the question that Atty. Gen. Holder was asked "the other day". Sen. Paul had asked for a "guarantee" that the drones would never be used "against US citizens, on US soil."

    March 7, 2013 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  20. mike Lake Orion Michigan

    What took so long to answer a simple question?

    March 7, 2013 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  21. eddieb

    Rand Paul is one of the reasons our goverment is broken how a nut case such as him get into office who knows

    March 7, 2013 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  22. Lokari

    "Paul said he was disturbed by the idea that an American citizen would lose his or her rights while within the country's borders."

    Really? And he waited until now to say something about it?

    March 7, 2013 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  23. John Drinkwater

    The devil is in the detail of that question: 'not engaged in combat'. Well, all the president would have to do is argue that a target 'was engaged in combat' even if, alas, they were not.

    March 7, 2013 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  24. mhklein

    I could see drones being used against terror suspects on U.S. soil as a law enforcement tool to apprehend such suspects. The case that comes to mind is a suspect holed up in a house surrounded by a SWAT or FBI team. The suspect refuses numerous requests to surrender. Rather than risk storming the house with guns, I could see attacking the suspect with a drone. Question is: is a drone the best tool to accomplish this objective in this situation?

    March 7, 2013 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  25. Timodeus

    Yeah he's such a tea party loon, wanting to make sure the President can't just assassinate American citizens in the US at will whenever he deems them "terrorists." Why would someone want to stop that? Wake up, they've done it abroad, what truly can stop them from doing it here?

    March 7, 2013 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
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