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. Lynn

    Darn I thought it said administration responds to Paul with drones not about .

    March 7, 2013 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  2. leatherneck88

    13 hours of wasted breath..more constructive avenues available....seeking to bolster his image nothing more

    March 7, 2013 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  3. Ralph in Orange Park FL

    The US military resorts to drone strikes in places where it is too difficult or dangerous to put boots on the ground. Name one place in the US or any of its territories where this condition applies. Rand Paul is pandering to tinfoil-hat paranoids.

    March 7, 2013 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  4. snowdogg

    Can we see the long form of this birth certif... er, letter from Holder?

    March 7, 2013 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  5. Me

    I can't believe this is actually an article, a senator actually wanted the President to respond on this, and another waste of my tax paying money. Wow! I could answer this for the President, "no" done.

    March 7, 2013 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  6. Byrd

    Yeah, well he only said that the president doesn't have the authority, now didn't he. Holder said nothing about whether or not the CIA has the authority and they're the jerkwads running these illegal missions.

    March 7, 2013 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  7. ja

    the same guys opposed to drones, watch breaking news 3- 4times yearly about a distraught american citizen killing civilians a shopping malls or schools and will not sign off on comprehensive gun laws, the same anti abortionist that will kill a living hooded soul a the least suscipion

    March 7, 2013 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  8. Nate

    Ron Paul can take that answer to the bank, right up to the time that he is zapped by a "bolt-from-the-blue"

    March 7, 2013 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  9. Dude Love

    So if an American is in combat (Chris Dorner) they will use drone strikes against him/her? Great.

    March 7, 2013 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  10. Sidb1980

    To Miles: Perhaps the President should have thought about the economy versus his mindless national tour to use fear and scare tactics on the mindless masses regarding the sequestration, which he initiated. To take out an American without due process of law should be frightening to anyone, even a Democrat.

    March 7, 2013 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  11. Beverly Vassar Hills

    obama should resing. Peopl have lost faith in him. He has lied about the sequester and now wants approval to attack Americans on our own soil. This is more typical of a dictator than an elected official.

    March 7, 2013 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  12. Jay Jay

    Agree or not with Mr.Paul – one has to respect him for his stand. Seems he now has his answer. Shame he had to waste 13 hours to get it but good for him.

    March 7, 2013 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  13. Ronald

    I think the GOP/Tea Party believe they are being paid to waste time and obstruct the possibility of getting anything done.

    March 7, 2013 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  14. Rosslaw

    Paul invented a medical society to give himself a board certification in opthomaligy. In questioning Hillary Clinton, he prefaced the question with the fabrication that she was resigning because of Benghazi, which for some reason is the only consulate attack of many over the last decade, the rest occuring during the Bush administration, that people like Paul want to investigate. Just another republican pretending to be upset at the idea of getting Americans killed while doing their best to get Americans killed..

    March 7, 2013 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  15. SteveR

    "Obama is Out," did you trust the administration that told us of non-existent weapons of mass destruction? Or the administration before that?

    March 7, 2013 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  16. theemptyone1

    The trick phrase is "not engaged in combat." That is a definition up for qualifying.

    March 7, 2013 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  17. Rudy NYC

    It seems Senators from Kentucky are starting a pattern of asking questions that address concerns brought to them by citizen and their constituents. How plausible is it that an armed militia group became concerned about the possibility of a drone dropping a missle into one of their training camps, and brought this concern to Sen. Paul? I consider it to be likely.

    March 7, 2013 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  18. nappi11

    He did nothing and I say nothing to change the new agenda. If your conspiring with known terrorist and we have proof you are, speaking to a cousin terrorist or whom ever. You still maybe have this Drone send a nice missile into your house. So keep sending money to a known terrorist, cousin or not. So there's your answer Rand Paul.

    March 7, 2013 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  19. AR

    Paul's 13 hour wind bag was answered with a short email. Classic.

    March 7, 2013 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  20. theemptyone1

    The operative phrase is "not engaged in combat." That would be open for definition.

    March 7, 2013 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  21. David Provine

    I think mr Obama should focus more on the people and restoring the economy that playing games with the Republicans ans constant campaigning .

    March 7, 2013 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  22. Anthony

    more GOP obstructionism, not supprised. this use to be the party of Lincoln that saved the Union, now it is bent on Destroying the Union at every turn. Lincoln must be turning in his grave to see his turn for the worst like this. i miss the Good Real GOP, where did you go? Please save your party if your still out there.

    March 7, 2013 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  23. Jim

    Hellooooo people, why did it take so long for the President to respond to the question? I guess you all think killing Americans on American soil is somehow OK? Why was it not proper to ask that question and expect a response after Holder said it wans't out of the realm of possibilities that drones may be allowed to strike on American soil? Anybody who believes that might be okay needs to have their head examined. Just look at Eric Holder, it isn't OK to put 2,000 M16 rifles into circulation in the criminal community only to lose them and have Americans killed by them along with who knows how many other non-Americans. Stop the double standard and question authority, always.

    March 7, 2013 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  24. Celiazora

    eddieb

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

    _____________________________
    Rand Paul got into office the same way as Barack Obama got into office: enough people liked what he had to say and voted for him.

    March 7, 2013 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  25. freidamurray

    Rand, I'm sure you are thinking that the ever-growing righter than right wing wacko militias out there will be attacked by drones. Now that would be ashame.

    March 7, 2013 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
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