March 7th, 2013
02:01 PM ET
9 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.

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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. mrdenali

    It said the president does not have the authority to use a drone. He never said anything about giving an order to someone else to use it.

    March 7, 2013 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  2. David

    Way to go Rand Paul. See lib' would have been easier for the Obama team to just answer the simple question as was finally answered! Rand Paul was asking for that answer for the past week and was ignored. So, call it a waste of time if you want, but the Obama administration owns the delay too!

    The Constitution wins again! Its a tough up hill battle but it still holds strong when pressed.

    March 7, 2013 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  3. The Other Dale

    Oh, what a good little lap-dog, Mr. Paul is! He gets a letter from the President's office and turns into a hysterical groupie. "Look at me! I got a letter from Obama's office! He loves me!!" Probably has a pin-up of the President in his locker at school.

    March 7, 2013 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  4. Mitt2016

    Gotta your 5 min fame kiddo ?? go back and let the men Mccain and Graham do the real lifting...

    March 7, 2013 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  5. chad

    Thank you, Rand Paul, for your dedicated service to our Country.

    March 7, 2013 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  6. Andy

    But targetted killings occur on US soil all the time. It's called the Death Penalty. Drones are bad but lethal injection is OK for US citizens? Wow...

    March 7, 2013 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  7. CaKe

    Scary door to crack open for our government down the road! I see it now, folks like me that have my thoughts and not afraid to express them and to have them possibly need to quiet folks like us by dropping a small missile in my bedroom! Is that thought or possibility going to far?

    March 7, 2013 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  8. NameBillK

    In other news...Wal-Mart is having a big sale on aluminum foil this weekend!

    March 7, 2013 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  9. RobertT

    Rand Paul was simply looking for a way to get some media coverage

    March 7, 2013 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  10. Name lynn

    rand you an the bushes have something in common, stupid an dont know nothing.

    March 7, 2013 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  11. longfisch

    Since when has it become acceptable to no longer use the term "president" when speaking about our president? I understand when people posting don't, most people show very little respect for others on here, but the media should hold itself to a higher standard.

    March 7, 2013 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  12. dklajkl2jkljklsjkl

    Using a weaponized drone on us soil is wrong period. For the same reason we dont use attack helicopters on us soil.

    March 7, 2013 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  13. Jack

    Sometimes you can over explain an answer when a simple yes or no will do. However it can also be a no win situation. On another issue a simple yes or no could be considered evasive. So it all depends.

    March 7, 2013 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  14. kayla

    rand paul just want to make sure we don't use drone on crazy americans who want their country back from the black man.

    March 7, 2013 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  15. e. pierre-louis

    Look, anybody who is an enemy of the US, citizen or not, who would pose a major imminent threat to the lives of other citizens might be a target for drone strikes within the USA, especially if he/she has built around themselves a strong defense ( mountain fortress etc.) Why nlot? drones are just a very effective long arm tool of the law.If on the other hand, they are sitting in a coffee shop, the local sheriff can arrest them, period!

    March 7, 2013 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  16. M. Bakri Musa

    Can somebody give an estimate on how much does it cost per hour to run the Senate. Please include the hours the senators have to be present to listen to all the hot air. This at a time when we are trying to cut expenses and make the government smaller. What did Paul achieve with his uncontrollable and self-induced 13-hour verbal diarrhea?
    M. Bakri Musa

    March 7, 2013 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  17. cnnmembuh

    P.S. – Do not concern yourself with the definition of "engaged in combat". You can leave that little tidbit to us.
    P.P.S. – We just bought a bunch of new tanks for Homeland Security! Feel safe, comrade!


    March 7, 2013 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  18. Donnie the Lion

    If the US Government is even considering sending a drone to kill an American citizen on U.S. soil, they probably deserve it 10x over. The drone program ain't cheap to operate, folks....even if it is considerably less costly than human forces.

    March 7, 2013 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  19. Laurence

    Thank you Rand Paul for geting us a real answer from Obama people

    March 7, 2013 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  20. Peach

    Why then did Holder not just answer the friggin question in the first place???? Of course the answer is NO-–NEVER

    March 7, 2013 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  21. bcrunner

    @Tiger Woods: To add to your comment. Not only that, they tell us they don't trust Obama, yet they trusted a guy who lied to the whole country and took us to an illegal war that cost thousands of American lives, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives and a trillion + in treasure.. And they have the audacity to tell us they don't trust Obama.. That's laughable!!

    March 7, 2013 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  22. columbus

    See how much less threatening a simple answer makes.

    March 7, 2013 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  23. meh

    What a showboating tool. Guess he's gunna run for Prez next election and wants to show he's tough by fabricating an issue that never truly was.
    Anyone who doesnt see this for what it was is kidding themselves.

    March 7, 2013 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  24. Sniffit

    Randroid is a bucket of crazy with curly hair on top. This is known. But he's at least willing to stand up and walk the walk, say what he believes PUBLICLY and try to defend it PUBLICLY. Not so much the case for the rest of the cowards in the GOP/Teatroll senate who would rather hide behind broken filibuster rules to require supermajority votes on everything, bring congress to a standstill and break the government. I disagree with Randroid on just about everything, but I can respect someone who gets up and does his crazydance in clownshoes for he whole world to least more than I can respect cowards who apparently don't really believe enough in what they claim they believe to stand up and do the same.

    March 7, 2013 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  25. LJ

    If a commercial aircraft was hijacked, going to fly into something like the capital building, and a drone was in a position to shoot it down, should it? And how is this different than a manned aircraft shooting it down? Isn't both killing Americans on American soil without due process.

    March 7, 2013 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
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