Rand Paul faces blowback after new drone comments
April 23rd, 2013
08:32 PM ET
1 year ago

Rand Paul faces blowback after new drone comments

(CNN) - Sen. Rand Paul's latest statements on the use of drones in the United States, which caused some outrage among his loyal group of Libertarian followers, aren't a shift in position, the Kentucky Republican explained in a statement Tuesday.

In his original comments, Paul explained his parameters for using drones on American soil.

“We shouldn’t be willy-nilly, looking into their backyard at what they’re doing. But if there is a killer on the loose in a neighborhood, I’m not against drones being used to search them out, heat seeking devices being used,” Paul said in an interview on Fox Business Network.

“If someone comes out of a liquor store with a weapon and $50 in cash, I don’t care if a drone kills him or a policeman kills him,” he added later.

The question arose in relation to the manhunt last week for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings. Tsarnaev was born in Kyrgyzstan but became a U.S. citizen in 2012.

Paul’s hypothetical scenario angered some fans, who loudly supported Paul when he took to the Senate floor in March to question whether the U.S. government believes it had the authority to carry out drone attacks against American citizens on U.S. soil.

“No American should be killed by a drone on American soil without first being charged with a crime, without first being found to be guilty by a court,” Paul said at the beginning of his 13-hour filibuster, which stalled the nomination of John Brennan to become CIA director. He was eventually confirmed.

The filibuster ended when Attorney General Eric Holder wrote in a letter to Paul that the president does not have the authority to use a drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on U.S. soil.

In a statement Tuesday, Paul said his position hasn't changed on the use of drones.

"My comments last night left the mistaken impression that my position on drones had changed. Let me be clear: it has not," he wrote. "Armed drones should not be used in normal crime situations. They only may only be considered in extraordinary, lethal situations where there is an ongoing, imminent threat. I described that scenario previously during my Senate filibuster. Additionally, surveillance drones should only be used with warrants and specific targets."

"Fighting terrorism and capturing terrorists must be done while preserving our constitutional protections," the senator continued. "This was demonstrated last week in Boston. As we all seek to prevent future tragedies, we must continue to bear this in mind."

While Paul has acknowledged in the past that an imminent threat could be cause to use a drone to kill an American, the specific situation he noted in the interview – an armed robbery of a liquor store – seemed to some of his fans as too low a threat.

“The guy is simultaneously capable of great good and evil it seems. Scares me. What are our alternatives? I don't know but, I am looking,” one poster wrote on a message board in the Daily Paul, a website for fans of both Rand Paul and his father Ron, the former Texas congressman and presidential candidate.

On his official Facebook page, fans issued similar criticism.

“If someone robs a liquor store, they get due process. Who decides who is guilty? The drone navigator?” one poster asked.

“Which is it Senator Paul?! Where do you stand?! This sickens me! I was just beginning to believe in you, too!” another chimed in.

The new backlash against Rand Paul was first reported by Foreign Policy magazine.


Filed under: Boston Marathon bombing • Rand Paul
soundoff (128 Responses)
  1. Sniffit

    "Autonomous drones will be developed."

    Haha...yeah...manned by small versions of Twiki from Buck Rogers...and they'll all eventually develop their own sentience and attempt to destroy mankind starting with you.

    Yawn.

    April 24, 2013 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  2. Anonymous

    To give Rand Paul the benefit of the doubt, it may be that he just doesn't remember holdiing a 13 hour filibuster, let alone anything he said. This is the advantage of living a reality free life.

    April 24, 2013 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  3. Pete

    All I can say about Paul is I hoped he was better at his medical practice than being a politician because in politics he really stinks!!

    April 24, 2013 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
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