Rand Paul faces blowback after new drone comments
April 23rd, 2013
08:32 PM ET
10 years 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. sgurdog

    Loss of credibility on this issue Rand.

    April 23, 2013 10:57 pm at 10:57 pm |
  2. Troy

    Does Paul really believe that the Constitution was upheld during the manhunt that took place last week? If so we really need to teach our Representatives what the Constitution says. What took place last week was Martial Law disguised as a "lockdown". Armed Militia entering homes without warrants is a crime. Has everyone forgotten that? Bostonians gave up their civil liberties for a 19 year old that was clinging to life in back of a boat. Please tell me Mr. Paul how that incident was in concert with the US Constitution? And please don't tell me that it made us safer, because it has not. There are still bad people out there planning bad things. Martial Law will not stop that.

    April 23, 2013 10:58 pm at 10:58 pm |
  3. MarcNJ

    killed for robbing a liquor store?

    April 23, 2013 10:58 pm at 10:58 pm |
  4. Neurotoxin

    Wow, it's 2013 and the media is already starting it's assault on Rand Paul for 2016 – the status quo is THAT terrified of him. And they're semi-smart about it, trying to quote his own fans as disappointed in him. It won't work. Smart supporters like me realize there's no inconsistency in his position, and the fickle libertarian kids who've changed their minds 5-6 times since Rand endorsed Romney will change them back by November 2016. We have the best political organizers in the country – if Ron Paul's campaign didn't convince you of that, you're just plain in denial. Rand will be the next President – that's a prediction as opposed to an endorsement.

    April 23, 2013 10:58 pm at 10:58 pm |
  5. Seattle Sue

    Isn't Rand just great? not

    April 23, 2013 11:04 pm at 11:04 pm |
  6. Steve S

    This scary sounding whack job, is what the modern GOP has become.

    April 23, 2013 11:09 pm at 11:09 pm |
  7. Pete/Ark

    I seem to recall this over-the-hill frat boy calling Romney a "flip-flopper"...

    April 23, 2013 11:09 pm at 11:09 pm |
  8. theala

    Let the double talk begin.

    April 23, 2013 11:10 pm at 11:10 pm |
  9. styymy

    I guess he doesn't realize that the liquor store would be obliterated in the act to stop a lone robber. Waste of life of innocents that could be inside or nearby and then there's the collateral damage. Police are better for this, not drones.

    April 23, 2013 11:13 pm at 11:13 pm |
  10. Ohyeah

    “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.

    “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

    OK, I am way confused now....

    April 23, 2013 11:17 pm at 11:17 pm |
  11. jimbojoker

    The only way to stop a bad guy with a drone is a good guy with a drone?

    April 23, 2013 11:22 pm at 11:22 pm |
  12. rickinmo

    When a person is fleeing the scene of his crime, there is no ongoing imminent threat except, perhaps, to any person who pursues him. Rand Paul constantly contradicts himself. He has repeatedly put his foot in his mouth in his attempt to make a name for himself as a 2016 presidential contender. Honestly, do we really need a president who is so inconsistent and embarrasses himself repeatedly? If you want to understand Rand Paul, remember this. Shortly after his election as Senator, Rand Paul wanted deep cuts across the board. One exception, however, was reimbursements to doctors. What is Rand Paul's profession? He's a doctor!!! I personally know several doctors in politics. Without exception, all of them talk a lot about improving medical care but, if you look closely at the bills they support, they all give more power and/or money to doctors while doing little or nothing to improve the delivery or cost of health care. I'm all for good medical care and I think doctors deserve to be compensated for their level of education and long hours but, the phony and deceptive presentations are nauseating.

    April 23, 2013 11:23 pm at 11:23 pm |
  13. Sn0wjob

    Yep. Rand Paul makes about as much sense as any other "Libertarian" I've ever spoken to – none whatsoever. Libertarians live in a snow-globe alternate reality, so most of the crap they say makes no sense to the rest of us who live in 21st-century Earth.

    April 23, 2013 11:25 pm at 11:25 pm |
  14. Anthony in California

    "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"

    But if a Wall Street guy or robs America of millions, Rand Paul gives him a pat on the back...

    April 23, 2013 11:27 pm at 11:27 pm |
  15. Homer10

    Hmmmm.... Republicons putting their foot in their mouths again. They just keep getting weirder, and weirder. I bet the Liqueur store owner wouldn't like the hellfire missiles blowing up his store. But they got the bad guy.

    April 23, 2013 11:30 pm at 11:30 pm |
  16. Nate in CA


    So much for a principled stand.

    April 23, 2013 11:34 pm at 11:34 pm |
  17. Larry L

    Rand says... "My position on drones hasn't changed... They should only be used when the polls taken following their use will look at my decision regarding their use favorably... ".

    April 23, 2013 11:35 pm at 11:35 pm |
  18. marsilius

    Capital punishment for stealing fifty dollars? Absolutely ridiculous.

    April 23, 2013 11:39 pm at 11:39 pm |
  19. Gateway2

    As a member from the do nothing party I find this unusual for Rand Paul.

    April 23, 2013 11:39 pm at 11:39 pm |
  20. Iamnotfooled

    And people want this man to be our President? LOL.

    April 23, 2013 11:50 pm at 11:50 pm |
  21. Thomas

    “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.

    Sen. Rand Paul’ is crazy nuts !
    A drone hit costs over a hundred thousand dollars. Thats an expensive way to whack an innocent until proven guilty male with an NRA hat and lotto tickets .

    Why and How are often questions regarding the thought process of Rands brain .

    April 23, 2013 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
  22. Brian

    Can we not hear anything more from this moron ever please?

    April 24, 2013 12:05 am at 12:05 am |
  23. North Dallas Don

    Well, now that Senator Rand Paul has revealed himself to be a typical political hypocrite can we all settle back down and review our choices for Republican presidential candidate in 2016? Putting drones in American airspace without necessary search warrants makes makes us no better than any other rogue government that denies freedom to its citizens. Either we are to live by the America that has been around for generations or we give in to the right wing zealots who wish to control our every move. It's our choice. Rand Paul is nothing but a tool of the right wing anti-freedom crusade.

    April 24, 2013 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  24. Forrest Gums

    This is the guy that is an apparent leader of the Tea Party Movement, according to Sarah Palin. Just proves that if these folks (congressman, senators), talk enough, they'll eventually prove that, ultimately, that they have warped values and morals. 🙂

    April 24, 2013 12:24 am at 12:24 am |
  25. Wes Scott

    The fool opens his mouth and finally a few of his worshipers are beginning to see that he is just as nutty as his daddy. The acorn does not fall far from the tree. Rand Paul is a hypocrite and anything BUT a patriotic American. He is a typical disconnected Tea Party buffoon.

    April 24, 2013 12:24 am at 12:24 am |
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