A Constitutional Battle Looms over Drone Assassination of Americans
February 15, 2013
Dan Hirschhorn / New York Daily News & Joseph Straw / New York Daily News &
Can a drone be used to kill an American in America? Until he gets an answer, Paul says he will block John Brennan's nomination as CIA director. Meanwhile, John Brennan defended targeted assassinations, telling the Senate Intelligence Committee that the CIA uses drone attacks to stop imminent terror threats, not as punishment for prior actions. Killing terrorists -- even American terrorists -- using drones is fine, Brennan told lawmakers.
Rand Paul Will Block CIA Appointment Until He Gets More Info on Drone Program
Dan Hirschhorn / New York Daily News
NEW YORK (February 13, 2013) -- Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul is threatening to block President Obama's choice to head the CIA until the administration forks over more information about its covert drone program.
Specifically, can a US drone be used to kill an American on American soil? Recently-disclosed administration legal documents bless the targeting of Americans involved with terrorist groups abroad.
Until he gets answers, Paul says he's willing to do "whatever it takes" - including a so-called "hold," which would block the Senate from taking up John Brennan's nomination as CIA director. Brennan was under fire last week during his confirmation hearing.
"He was asked a very specific question. . . 'Can you kill an American with a drone in America?' And he refused to answer the question," Paul told USA Today. "I find that very, very worrisome [AND]we're going to do whatever it takes to get the answer. Can the government, does the government, the president himself, claim the power to unilaterally kill an American in America without a trial?"
A hold by Paul would further complicate a challenging round of national security appointments for the Obama administration. The President's nominee for Secretary of Defense, former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel, only narrowly cleared a committee vote, and some Republicans are still threatening a filibuster to block him.
Paul, who delivered the official tea party response to Obama's State of the Union address Tuesday night, also reiterated that he's eyeing the 2016 presidential race.
"I do want to be part of the national debate," Paul said. "I want to be part of deciding what the Republican message is and who the Republican leaders are."
Obama's Pick for CIA Chief
Defends the Use of Drones
During Confirmation Hearing
Joseph Straw / New York Daily News
WASHINGTON (February 7, 2013) -- Killing terrorists -- even American terrorists -- using drones is fine, President Obama's pick to head the CIA told lawmakers Thursday.
Facing tough questions at a contentious confirmation hearing, John Brennan told the Senate Intelligence Committee that the CIA has used the drone attacks only as a deterrent against imminent terror threats -- not as punishment for previous actions.
"I think (opponents) really have a misunderstanding of what we do as a government and the care that we take and the agony that we go through to make sure that we do not have any collateral injuries or deaths," said Brennan, who now serves as the president's counterterrorism czar.
He said any American who joins Al Qaeda should know "that they, in fact, are part of an enemy against us and that the United States will do everything possible to destroy that enemy to save American lives."
Three Americans and an unknown number of foreigners have been killed as a result of the controversial drone policy, which Obama has made a centerpiece of his strategy in the war on terror.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) summarized the concerns as he addressed Brennan.
"Taking the fight to Al Qaeda is something every member of this committee feels strongly about," Wyden said. "It's the idea of giving any President unfettered . . . power to kill an American without checks and balances that's so troubling."
The committee's chairwoman, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), said she would review proposals to create a secret court to oversee such strikes.
The issue drew more than a dozen protesters to the hearing, most affiliated with the Code Pink anti-war group. They rose and interrupted Brennan's opening statement four times.
"Stop the drones!" one woman yelled, while a man shouted, "You are a traitor to democracy!" as he was led from the room, forcing Feinstein to clear the gallery of spectators.
According to a Justice Department memo that emerged this week, government attorneys concluded drone strikes can be used to kill US citizens abroad if the target holds a senior slot in Al Qaeda and capture isn't feasible.
Top committee Republican Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) pressed Brennan on a 1998 CIA plan to capture Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan -- one Brennan, then a senior CIA official, advised against.
Brennan noted that every senior CIA official felt the same and said so at the time. "I have no second thoughts whatsoever about my advice," Brennan said.
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