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. W.G.

    This guys an Idiot !! He´s worse than Romney !! I´ll be glad when the next election takes him and all the
    other right wing wingnuts right out the DOOR !!!

    April 24, 2013 06:14 am at 6:14 am |
  2. works4me

    While I don't believe that drones should be armed and/or take out the guilty, if you're not doing anything wrong why sweat them. Now, if I'm getting action in the middle of a rye field and I have a drone sitting over me, watching, that would be an issue.

    April 24, 2013 06:22 am at 6:22 am |
  3. TomInRochNY

    Rand Paul, a man of prinicipled conviction. He's just not sure what that principled conviction is.

    April 24, 2013 06:23 am at 6:23 am |
  4. patrick

    This guy is an example of someone who is very very drunk on very very little power. One week it's no drones against Americans, the next week it's "use drones to kill Americans without due process". This is what happens when the electorate votes someone in on a single issue without questioning what his total philosophy is.

    April 24, 2013 06:23 am at 6:23 am |
  5. scars

    Do we no longer think that people are innocent until proven guilty? Are we just going to take the authorities word that they have the right person and there is sufficient evidence? There should be no drone usage in this country. Period. Honestly, anyone who thinks that there should be really doesn't understand what it means to be an American. We do NOT give up all our freedoms for the ILLUSION of safety.

    April 24, 2013 06:30 am at 6:30 am |
  6. Marie MD

    I think this crazy fool finally reached the point of "losing it"!!!
    I approve of drones instead of boots on the ground but killing somebody for robbing a store?
    I thought he was for NO BIG government.
    Does he read or listen to what he says one day and then retracts next day? Crazy is as crazy does. Wow!

    April 24, 2013 06:31 am at 6:31 am |
  7. jim atmad

    Just about everybody walking out of a Texas liquor store has $50 and a gun. Send in the drones!

    April 24, 2013 06:32 am at 6:32 am |
  8. bear

    Rand Paul should run for office in Somalia with Mitch as his running mate, only problem the people of Somalia are smarter than the citizens of KY and would not elect them.

    April 24, 2013 06:32 am at 6:32 am |
  9. ericmpaul

    Republicans talk a lot about defending the Constitution. The problem is, it's all talk. They don't understand the intent. Clearly, we don't want to become a police state, taking action under the assumption of guilt. Paul is saying here that we can assume through observation, guilt. And then take a knee jerk reaction.

    April 24, 2013 06:37 am at 6:37 am |
  10. Donkey Party

    Sure is fun watching right-wingers trying to put the toothpaste back in the tube after they say stupid things.

    April 24, 2013 06:59 am at 6:59 am |
  11. Richard Larson

    Just another believer in the mad, wholly American posse syndrome that mandates a "Dead or Alive" pursuit of criminals, damn the social cost. I can understand it during the Horse and Buggy days where immediate pursuit was necessary if the culprit was to ever be caught and brought to local justice. These days, with virtually every one capable of photographing a suspect and instantaneous exchange of data bases and almost instant travel to effect a local arrest, temporary incarceration, and the ability to interview and depose witnesses anywhere in the world on an almost real-time basis, the posse mandate is no longer necessary. Yes, you do want to limit movement of dangerous people, but realistically speaking, the danger to bystanders increases exponentially during the posse chase. The young Police officer at MIT need not have been gratuitously killed were it not that the killers felt threatened. Stupid policy, incredibly stupid policy killed that young cop. Facts are that the death of the older brother was unnecessary for the same reason. Fact #3 is that the older brother was killed in an indiscriminate mass of unnecessary bullets. The order goes out to shoot and 20 cops, joined in hysteria each shoot ten to fifteen rounds, totally unaimed and heedless of where each potentially fatal bullet was going to impact, killed a young man who could, with a bit of intelligent police work and patience been available for questioning and then held for trial.

    April 24, 2013 07:20 am at 7:20 am |
  12. Why the Fillibuster

    If he is not against drones being used against Americans why did he do the fillibuster ? He only has aproblem if drones are used to kill Yemini Terrorists ? Is this the makeing of a new Mitt Romney ??

    April 24, 2013 07:26 am at 7:26 am |
  13. Dave

    Another fruit cake just like his dad. Simple one line solutions to complicated problems. Simple one line solutions that DON"T PASS MUSTER when subjected to even a cursory second level of scrutiny. Campaign quality sound bites without any real "How the hell would this solution REALLY work". The Rand and Ron Show...this centuries Rowan and Martin....what can ya say?

    April 24, 2013 07:26 am at 7:26 am |
  14. Mike.J

    It's a shame that this article limits the information to what other people took out of context or misunderstood. If you hunt down the clip, you'll see that Rand Paul was saying that lethal force by a drone could be used if there was an immediate threat in which a police officer had the right to kill a perpetrator. If a cop has the right to kill, Paul thinks a drone could be used instead. What he meant could have been said more eloquently.

    April 24, 2013 07:27 am at 7:27 am |
  15. 13Directors

    This should come at no surprise.

    April 24, 2013 07:28 am at 7:28 am |
  16. Harley

    Well that's this weeks comment from Kentucky.....tune in next week

    April 24, 2013 07:32 am at 7:32 am |
  17. Harvey

    Helicopters are used to run down criminals. What is the difference between that and a drone except the pilot is on the ground?

    April 24, 2013 07:34 am at 7:34 am |
  18. James Pfeiffer

    Rand Paul is a perfect example of a blowhard, myopic Tea Party fanatic...in other words, another accident waiting to happen...like Palin, Bachmann, Gingrich, Coulter, LaPierre, Cruz et al. These people will say anything they need to say in order to gain attention or be elected...i.e. one day they're grandstanding and making a speech against drones on the floor of the senate, and the next they're are calling for drones over our cities. I absolutely don't care if someone disagrees with me on any issue. The real problem is when these egotists change from one extreme to another, sometimes in the same day...usually because they are addressing a different crowd and, like political animals they are, will say anything to anyone for the almighty vote. These are not statesmen/women but are people who are self-deluded nihilists and, unfortunately, our society gives them the center ring in the big media circus.

    April 24, 2013 07:37 am at 7:37 am |
  19. Homer Simpson

    Ahh, poetic justice, his big mouth, trying to make any and all dems look bad, made a fool of himself yet again

    April 24, 2013 07:40 am at 7:40 am |
  20. Hogan's Goat

    Who cares? This clown has given Libertarianism a black eye that will take ten years to fade. Welcome back to being kooks, libertarians. You had a serious presidential candidate last cycle; today you have this drone who wants to be queen. Sigh.

    April 24, 2013 07:43 am at 7:43 am |
  21. PJ

    Well, now a bomb that killed three people is a WEAPON OF MASS DESTRUCTION according to the charges being filed by the DOJ – seems they change their definition of the crime to fit the outcome they want. Just like you, Rand. The only thing YOU stand for is your own self- promotion.

    April 24, 2013 07:46 am at 7:46 am |
  22. Homer Simpson

    Typical gop, no real substance, when your only game is trying to make everyone else look bad, your screwed. another gop fool

    April 24, 2013 07:46 am at 7:46 am |
  23. Larry

    next week's headline "Rand Paul in Stress Rehab" you either like him or not and sometimes it's as if he wants you to do both

    April 24, 2013 07:49 am at 7:49 am |
  24. talldarkfree

    Guess his fans are just now figuring out he's an idiot? Go figure.....

    April 24, 2013 07:57 am at 7:57 am |
  25. f ray

    speaking of liquor stores, maybe we should get some of the people about 3 hours after they leave a liquor store to run for office, so we'd have a reason for drunk like comments from our representatives.

    April 24, 2013 08:04 am at 8:04 am |
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