March 7th, 2013
02:01 PM ET
2 years 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. curiosity

    PREFACE: I understand what actually happens and what is supposed to happen do not always coincide.
    The concern with drones, in my mind, is: If I am holed up in a house somewhere with SWAT outside as an alledged criminal, I theoretically am still afforded due process to prove my guilt, provided SWAT arrests me. With a weaponized drone, I am not afforded due process. I am afforded the sound of a turboprop engine, the sound of a hellfire missile and a bright light before all my problems are solved.

    March 7, 2013 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  2. Rob

    Rand is great

    March 7, 2013 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  3. bannister

    Name Miles Davis – Paul was NOT playing mind games with the President, he was trying to get a straight answer about drone strikes on US soil – something that EVERY American should be concerned about.

    Like his father, Paul is ALSO very concerned with the US economy and, also like is father, is one of the few people to call attention to the negative effect the Federal Reserve has on our economy.

    By the way I love Miles Davis – but he was a racist. : )

    March 7, 2013 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  4. sally

    Rand Paul is engaging in some political theater and I don't like his allusions to Hitler in the least. Obama was democratically elected and his use of drones is hardly comparable to the whole scale slaughter of the Jews. I wish we didn't have to use drones or anything else but the fanatics who would launch attacks against this country have to be stopped. That is not to say that unrestrained use of drones is acceptable. It must be strategic and very carefully planned and I trust Obama to be restrained.

    March 7, 2013 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  5. JD

    Ron Paul is an idiot that will soon be forgotten hopefully!

    March 7, 2013 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  6. Sheeple

    '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."

    Keywords "kill an American not engaged"
    So basically the answer is really yes. Because A high speed chase could be seen as an act of combat. There mister drone could pounce. Just lovely

    ~Murica

    March 7, 2013 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  7. REGinAZ

    Rand Paul's comment that he is "happy with response" most likely could be more accurately stated by saying he is now "happy with the attention".

    March 7, 2013 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  8. Sina Raissi

    After years of having no plans to deal with any of the problems that have afflicted our country, Is this where and how the republican party wants to express and explain itself?

    March 7, 2013 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  9. "not combat"

    so militia will be OK to kill. Ha. Look between the lines what he meant in that letter. Anyone who will stand their ground against military will be considered engaged in combat.

    March 7, 2013 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  10. SteveAR

    We already know Holder doesn't read his emails; look at the emails he didn't read regarding Fast & Furious. How would Holder believe Sen. Paul asked a different question, which the reality is, Sen. Paul has been asking the same question repeatedly. The fact that it took Holder three or four times to properly answer Sen. Cruz's question yesterday makes me doubt Holder ever read anything. But at least it's now in writing that Sen. Paul was absolutely correct.

    March 7, 2013 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  11. don

    Rand Paul is weak on terrorism.

    March 7, 2013 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  12. Sorensen

    What a flaming idiot.

    March 7, 2013 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  13. Anonymous

    no authority to "use"...the president would not be likely to use the weapon himself...does this letter include no authority to "order the use by", i.e., by others?

    March 7, 2013 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  14. Homer and Jethro

    What kind of moron would actually think the answer was 'yes?' Come on, Rand, didn't you go to school at all? You could have asked any lawyer, heck, any county sheriff, and gotten the same obvious answer. Oh yeah, but that wouldn't have impressed the dummies out in flyover, right? Inside the US, we'd just arrest them. Duh, right?

    March 7, 2013 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  15. Marie MD

    All this from the racist who wants to go back to pre civil rights era of whites only and whose goons beat up on women.
    At least he got to wee wee like the nasty little boy he truly is.

    March 7, 2013 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  16. Indyswimmer66

    Paul is an idiot.

    March 7, 2013 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  17. greg in kentucky

    Paul should not be trying to hold our government hostage. The republicans in Kentucky have shown that anything Obama does they'll fight. Don't we deserve better. Maybe Paul can run in another state, not everyone here believes or acts like 3 year Olds.

    March 7, 2013 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  18. Hmm

    The letter mentions "no" to authority to "use"...the president is not likely to himself "use" the weapon. Does the letter also mean no to the authority to "order the use of" the weapon, i.e., by others?

    March 7, 2013 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  19. Al

    Rand Paul.
    Just another Neaderthal.

    March 7, 2013 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  20. Jack- NYC

    Thank you for fighting for this Rand Paul. I don;t agree with all of your policies, but this is great to see in writing. Good win!

    March 7, 2013 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  21. Sniffit

    Randroid's tantrum made the case for requiring talking filibusters, much to the chagrine of his coward GOP/Teatroll playmates.

    March 7, 2013 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  22. Homer and Jethro

    "If I am holed up in a house somewhere with SWAT outside as an alledged criminal, I theoretically am still afforded due process to prove my guilt," What crime have you been accused of, homie? Why are you on police radar and planning a shootout? SWAT could use a police drone to shoot you after you refused to surrender, or just come in and OBL you. I'd advise you to come out with your hands up, or be killed. Geez, if I was the FBI I'd be tracing you right now.

    March 7, 2013 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  23. Bruce

    If this is the question that Sen Paul's was trying to ask, he sure took a long time to articulate it. He talked for 13 hours to ask a simple question with an obvious answer...WOW? And we pay this guy and the likes of him 6 figures...unbelievable!!!

    March 7, 2013 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  24. Bob

    The answer is really yes. The key is "American not engaged in combat." Holder has made it clear in his previous answers that yes, in fact, Obama would kill Americans if he can justify it with "engaged in combat," whatever the heck that means.

    March 7, 2013 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  25. Hillcrester

    Maybe it hinges on what defines "[not] engaged in combat."

    March 7, 2013 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
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