Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky feels very passionate about preventing the trial, conviction and execution of Americans on U.S. soil via drone attack; so passionate that today he took to the floor of the Senate to filibuster the confirmation of CIA director nominee John Brennan.
The subject of the Obama Administration’s policy on use of drones inside the U.S. has been a hot issue this past month. The matter came to a boil this week when Attorney General Eric Holder said Washington could conceivably launch lethal combat-drone strikes on Americans on U.S. soil without trial.
"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," Holder said in a letter to Senator Paul.
Paul sent a letter to the White House requesting the administration's views on the president's "power to authorize lethal force, such as a drone strike, against a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil, and without trial." Holder’s response demonstrates that in the minds of the Obama Administration the president does hold such power.
Paul was carrying out his threat to block Brennan's confirmation until he got an answer to all of his questions.
Holder responded in a letter to Paul on Monday who in turn released it to the media on Tuesday.
Brennan’s confirmation cleared the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday but awaits approval by the full Senate. Paul’s filibuster could conceivably push out confirmation for several days as the White House and Senate Republicans spar over a declaration from the administration.
Brennan himself said in a letter to Paul that the CIA had no authority to use lethal force against Americans on U.S. soil, yet as of yet the White House Council has remained mum.
"If I am fortunate enough to be confirmed as CIA director, I would have no 'power' to authorize such operations," Brennan said.
Paul indicated after receiving the letter from Holder that it didn’t definitively state the administration’s view and he would be forced to filibuster Brennan's nomination.
Holder's "refusal to rule out the possibility of drone strikes on American citizens and on American soil is more than frightening; it is an affront to the constitutional due process rights of all Americans," Paul said in a statement.
Paul's filibuster isn’t likely to last long because Brennan's nomination remains likely to garner the 60 votes needed to end the filibuster perhaps as soon as Thursday.
Holder’s letter said, "The U.S. government has not carried out drone strikes in the United States and has no intention of doing so. As a policy matter, moreover, we reject the use of military force where well-established law enforcement authorities in this country provide the best means for incapacitating a terrorist threat."
"The question you have posed is therefore entirely hypothetical, unlikely to occur, and one we hope no president will ever have to confront," Holder said in his letter.
Antagonism in the House and Senate towards the White House has ramped up due to the administration’s stonewalling on details about the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012, that resulted in the death of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
Paul’s strongest supporter in the Senate is Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina who also threatened to block Brennan's nomination until the administration comes clean.
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