Rand Paul faces blowback after new drone comments
April 23rd, 2013
08:32 PM ET
12 months 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. Darrell

    Poor show, Rand. I hope you'll grow into your father's shoes some day.

    April 24, 2013 12:26 am at 12:26 am |
  2. G tech

    I see only one use of drones over U.S. soil. Border patrol. Period.

    April 24, 2013 12:30 am at 12:30 am |
  3. Complete ignorance

    This guy & everyone that follows him are rather looney.

    April 24, 2013 12:43 am at 12:43 am |
  4. Bill

    Don't trust Rand Paul – You never know what he is going to say.

    April 24, 2013 12:51 am at 12:51 am |
  5. stars

    Thir paul dude is nutty like his dad. apple didnt fall far from that tree.

    April 24, 2013 12:52 am at 12:52 am |
  6. Name

    Who do Rand Paul thinks he's fooling?! ~It's "wrong" for Pres. Obama (the black man) to do it, but it's "righteous" for them to do attack with drones! ~This is straight buffoonery what is taking place in the political arena!! They will squash their OWN agenda if Pres. Obama agrees with it...Wow!

    April 24, 2013 12:53 am at 12:53 am |
  7. jdoe

    Sooner or later the nuttiness comes out. It always does.

    April 24, 2013 12:57 am at 12:57 am |
  8. Chris

    Wow... that opens a whole new can of worms now doesn't it. :-)

    April 24, 2013 01:15 am at 1:15 am |
  9. DaVuVuZeLa

    There's a name for people like Rand Paul....they're called hypocrites.

    April 24, 2013 01:24 am at 1:24 am |
  10. jerry

    Of course, in any situation in which a police officer may use lethal force, a drone ought to be allowed to do the same.

    April 24, 2013 01:45 am at 1:45 am |
  11. J.C.

    First the Presidency had its village idiot, W. Now one has taken up abode in the Senate, R. Paul. US politics: a farce or true representation of the politicians' constituents? Both, I'd venture to say.

    April 24, 2013 01:53 am at 1:53 am |
  12. Doug

    Who put this nut job in that office ?

    April 24, 2013 02:03 am at 2:03 am |
  13. Lily

    This sounds a little overboard to me! I'm surprised that Rand Paul would seem so cavalier about taking someone's life and will no doubt refrain from voting for him should he ever run for the presidency.

    April 24, 2013 02:07 am at 2:07 am |
  14. Craig

    The Legal Code of Hammurabi – 1772 BC. "If a man bring an accusation against a man, and charge him with a capital crime, but cannot prove it, he, the accuser, shall be put to death."

    I think a lot of people in our government should face this standard. How many non-combatant civilians have this government killed and who will answer for their deaths. This applies to the current administration and all of those previous.

    A lot of people are forgetting why we have trials with jurys. There it is engraved in stone. The elite don't have the right to decide by anonymous committee who gets to live and who dies just to further their own lust for power and their economic interests. How are you going to see from a drone what happened inside a store or if someone has $50 in their hand. Determinations of guilt and innocence and who should be executed are best made by a jury and not in the heat of the moment. If American citizenship means anything, then all those accused have the right to tell their side of the story.

    April 24, 2013 02:19 am at 2:19 am |
  15. LDH2O

    The difference is that a policeman has good situational awareness of what is happening while the drone operator, far away, does not. The operator cannot hear or smell, and only sees where a sensor is pointed. The person with $50 and a gun may be a hostage and the gun was unloaded by the real criminal.

    April 24, 2013 02:30 am at 2:30 am |
  16. the source

    of course cnn will whitewash, and put an assumptions on his words. lol, ur not convincing any libertarians with this false post.

    April 24, 2013 03:01 am at 3:01 am |
  17. RayJacksonMS

    Yes because obviously the best way to handle an armed robbery is to blow up the store, the employees and all the customers. This man is a complete and total fool.

    April 24, 2013 03:23 am at 3:23 am |
  18. Chad Burdick

    So officially we no longer have anyone in any form of government interested in the bill of rights besides trying to bypass them. his dad was the last champion of the constitution. the rest all have policies for sale for power or money. This actually hurt me on a personal level.

    April 24, 2013 03:34 am at 3:34 am |
  19. Chad Burdick

    The correct mentality from a libertarian is that drones should not be permitted period. The blow back from them being used even in battle is entirely to high. They go against the fundamental principles of war not just from a honourable standpoint but its far easier to kill when it is a setting of a video game.

    April 24, 2013 03:39 am at 3:39 am |
  20. Don P

    Drone strikes leave a big hole and has a substantial damage radius (it uses a missile folks). Although OK to take out a terrorist, to use drones on US citizens will cause additional casualties and building damage. Not worth it for a robber. This guy is dangerous to even suggest it.

    April 24, 2013 03:47 am at 3:47 am |
  21. myway

    Just another example Rand Paul can't be trusted. Anyone who addresses such a serious subject with opposite statements within 2 calendar months is too hard to figure out.

    April 24, 2013 04:16 am at 4:16 am |
  22. John

    Rand Paul Is really a nut case!

    April 24, 2013 04:58 am at 4:58 am |
  23. kurt shmut

    All senitores and congres members are corruped. They have voted in this leagelised corruption them selves so evrything they say is suspect!

    April 24, 2013 05:16 am at 5:16 am |
  24. ronvan

    This is the kind of stupid statements OUR "elected children" make all the time! I do not have a problem using UNARMED drones! It is basically the exact same thing as using helicopters to "observe".

    April 24, 2013 05:54 am at 5:54 am |
  25. Chris B

    Typical Right-wing hypocrite.

    April 24, 2013 05:55 am at 5:55 am |
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