“I will speak until I can no longer speak,” Paul said. “I will speak as long as it takes, until the alarm is sounded from coast to coast that our Constitution is important, that your rights to trial by jury are precious, that 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 letters sent to him from Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and Brennan had not addressed his question on whether the government could conduct drone strikes on U.S. soil. Although Brennan told him in a letter March 5 that the CIA neither conducts, nor has authority to undertake, lethal attacks within the United States, Holder wrote March 4 that there might be extraordinary circumstances, such as the 2001 terrorist attacks or Pearl Harbor, where the government might have that authority. Paul referenced the responses on the Senate floor.
“You see, the drone strike program is under the Department of Defense,” Paul said, “so when the CIA says they’re not going to kill you in America, they’re not saying the Defense Department won’t.”
Over and over, Paul repeated his demand for assurances from President Barack Obama that his administration would not order strikes against Americans, even saying late Wednesday night that he would settle for a tweet.
The White House has not responded to Paul’s request.
Benghazi, ‘Enhanced’ Interrogations
Although Paul was the main attraction in the Senate on Wednesday, he is not the only senator seeking information from the White House.
Republicans John McCain, of Arizona, and Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina, also may challenge Brennan’s nomination over questions related to the Benghazi attack. On Tuesday, McCain repeated his concerns about Brennan’s role in the CIA’s enhanced interrogation program.
“I want to know what his position is,” McCain said. “On one hand he said he condemned them, on the other hand he said it saved lives. I don’t know how you reconcile those two positions.”
Brennan withdrew from consideration to be CIA director four years ago over questions surrounding his role in the use of enhanced interrogation techniques under President George W. Bush. During his Intelligence Committee hearing Feb. 7, Brennan denied playing a central role in the CIA program, which included the use of such controversial methods as waterboarding.
Legal Opinions on Drone Strikes
Some senators who had threatened to block Brennan’s nomination softened their stances on Tuesday.
Before the Senate Intelligence Committee approved Brennan’s nomination Tuesday, Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said the administration would supply the panel with requested legal opinions on the targeted killing of U.S. citizens suspected of terrorism overseas.
That decision earned Brennan the support of Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who was considering a hold on the nomination, as well as Mark Udall, D-Colo., and Susan Collins, R-Maine.