Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul rose from his seat on the Senate floor shortly before noon today and announced that he would "speak until I can no longer speak." Thus started his "talking filibuster" to block the nomination of John Brennan as the next CIA director.
He is blocking the nomination over a letter he received from U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder that said the president has the legal authority to kill American citizens on American soil without benefit of due process and a trial.
During his nomination hearing before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Senator Diane Feinstein whether the president could carry out drone strikes inside the United States. John Brennan answered that the administration "has not carried out such strikes and has no intention of doing so" (http://1.usa.gov/WJYJsY).
Senator Paul found Brennan's response "insufficient."
Senator Paul sent three separate letters to Mr. Brennan, currently the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, regarding the legality and constitutionality of the U.S. government using lethal force, including drone strikes, on Americans and in U.S. territory.
His first letter of Jan 25 went unanswered, as did his second letter sent on Feb 12. The senator finally received a response on Mar 4, after he sent a third letter on Feb 20.
In his written response to Sen. Paul, Eric Holder said "It is possible, I suppose, to imagine an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the President to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States."
“I don’t rise to oppose John Brennan’s nomination simply for the person. I rise today for the principle,” Paul began. “The principle is one that as Americans we have fought long and hard for and to give up on that principle, to give up on the Bill of Rights, to give up on the Fifth Amendment protection that says that no person shall be held without due process, that no person shall be held for a capital offense without being indicted" (http://bit.ly/YAwAXP).
The question is whether or not such a strike is constitutional. The 5th Amendment of the Bill of Rights also states no person shall "be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law."
In an interview with Fox News on Mar 8, Senator Paul said “What we’re talking about is you’re eating dinner in your house. you’re eating at a cafe or you’re walking down the road. That’s when these drone strikes can occur.” Paul added, calling the development “particularly disturbing”.
“If you’re an American and you’re accused of a crime, one of the basic principles, one of the protections we’ve always had is, you get a trial… You don’t get convicted without a trial.” the Senator added.
“Listen to what his [Obama's] response is.” Paul urged. “His response is, we haven’t killed any Americans yet. We don’t intend to, but we might. And that’s pretty disturbing.”
So Senator Rand Paul's speaking filibuster, reminiscent of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, is now about to go into its tenth hour. At times, Sen. Paul will receive support, without yielding the floor, to other Republican senators like Ted Cruz, Mike Lee and Marco Rubio who joked "Just let me give you some free advice: keep some water nearby,”
Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid tried to intervene and bring Brennan's nomination to a vote. Rand Paul responded saying he was ready to vote immediately - as soon as he received answers from Eric Holder on the killing of Americans. Reid responded saying he couldn't speak for the Justice Department or the White House.
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