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White House Responds To Rand Paul

Rand Paul’s filibuster finally earned a response from the White House on the use of drones on American soil:

President Barack Obama would not use a drone to kill an American on U.S. soil, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Thursday, responding to Sen. Rand Paul’s 13-hour filibuster a day earlier on the Senate floor.

“The president has not and would not use drone strikes against American citizens on American soil,” Carney said at a press briefing.

Carney said Attorney General Eric Holder sent a letter to Paul Thursday clarifying the administration’s stance on the issue, which generated considerable controversy on Twitter Wednesday as Paul’s filibuster unfolded.

“Does the president have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil? …. The answer to that question is no,” Carney said, quoting Holder’s letter.

Here’s the letter:

Eric Holder letter to Rand Paul by dmataconis

Now, was that so hard?

Related Posts:

About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. mistermix says:

    “Finally”? He already got a response from the White House and wasn’t happy with it.

    This is more of a “oh, now I get what you’re asking, why didn’t you say so in the first place” from Holder.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 5

  2. Franklin says:

    Actually I find it comforting that there is *some* limit somewhere.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  3. Moosebreath says:

    @mistermix:

    “This is more of a “oh, now I get what you’re asking, why didn’t you say so in the first place” from Holder.”

    It’s even worse. Before, Paul was demanding that the Administration say under no circumstances would it ever launch a drone against an American citizen within our borders. The Administration refused to do so, specifically citing situations where it would bring the power of the military (which includes drones) against a person engaged in combat, and gave specific examples (Pearl Harbor and 9-11). Paul has now changed the question to be exactly what the Administration answered already, and the Administration is confirming that it’s answer hasn’t changed. If Paul wants to proclaim this as a victory, go for it.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 21 Thumb down 1

  4. Jeremy R says:

    @mistermix:

    Yup this is essentially the same response he gave originally, worded more simply (“not engaged in combat” being the the obvious uber-caveat here). This all boils down to the obvious fact that no President is going to give up the option of taking radical action if the country is under attack, particularly in some new and unforeseen fashion.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  5. Now, was that so hard?

    Please….Rand Paul spends 13 hours sucking all the air out of the room and he gets back a 3 line “No Duh” response of a letter.

    A little embarrassment would be appropriate.

    (Keep that letter handy. We’ll be referring to it next time someone complains about the president killing Americans with drones.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 1

  6. C. Clavin says:

    I still wish Obama had just walked onto the Senate floor and asked…

    “Rand, are you f’ing stupid?”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 2

  7. C. Clavin says:

    I suppose that, Herb suggests, Republicans should be embarrased…but if they weren’t humbled by 9.11…and the debacle that was Iraq…and a 9% economic contraction in a single quarter…they are too friggin’ stupid to be humbled by anything.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 2

  8. JKB says:

    Is it so hard for the Administration to articulate that the President cannot lawfully use deadly force against anyone in the US who does not pose a reasonable threat of imminent death or serious bodily injury to others?

    Admittedly, they would run into the problem of the “newspeak” definition they used when they said such about killing Americans overseas. In that their definition of imminent was very broad, like within a year.

    Still the use of a drone, aircraft or other non-infantry force would indicate that the US government (and State government) were not longer in control of the territory and could no longer enforce the US rule of law in the area. Otherwise, why use premeditated intentional killing of humans to stop a non-imminent threat in an area not publicly declared a zone of combat operations and presumably an area where the US government asserts sovereignty?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 5

  9. Andre Kenji says:

    I prefer people like Rand Paul dominating the Republican Party than people like Ayotte, Graham and McCain;

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  10. JKB says:

    @C. Clavin:

    Presumably, you are unaware that the President must be invited to address Congress and cannot just walk on to the Senate floor and say “boo”.

    It’s that whole separation of powers. It’s in the Constitution, you should read that sometime. And no, it isn’t explicit, for the literal around here.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  11. Jeremy R says:

    @JKB:

    Is it so hard for the Administration to articulate that the President cannot lawfully use deadly force against anyone in the US who does not pose a reasonable threat of imminent death or serious bodily injury to others?

    No, clearly that’s easy. And when the question is worded in that fashion they can respond with a single word answer. Rand’s originally question was much more open ended, and lacked the bolded caveat. I think it’s pretty obvious he did so with the intent to gin up controversy, and in preparation for his planned, toothless political stunt.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  12. mantis says:

    @JKB:

    Presumably, you are unaware that the President must be invited to address Congress and cannot just walk on to the Senate floor and say “boo”.

    It’s that whole separation of powers. It’s in the Constitution, you should read that sometime. And no, it isn’t explicit, for the literal around here.

    Do you think Harry Reid would not have invited the president if he wanted to address the Senate?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  13. legion says:

    That “thud” you just heard was somebody pulling the fainting couch out from under Lindsey Graham…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  14. mantis says:

    Now, was that so hard?

    Obviously not. Would it have been so hard for you and Rand Paul to recognize that the AG answered Paul’s initial question correctly and appropriately, instead of pretending that he was actually answering a question that Paul did not ask? If you had, you would not have embarrassed yourself by writing things this dumb:

    The question that we all deserve an answer to, I think, is whether the Administration sees a day where Predator drones are roaming American skies looking for American citizens to strike at, regardless of the reason.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  15. Ben Wolf says:

    Paul, whom I personally consider to be a relatively bad person, has done the right thing. At least someone did.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  16. Jeremy R says:

    @Ben Wolf:

    http://ordinary-gentlemen.com/blog/2013/03/rand-pauls-misleading-and-pointless-grandstanding/

    [T]his is political theater. The Senate has been AWOL when it comes to proposing actual changes to the law. They balk at attempts to close GITMO, they’ve yet to establish a workable situation for trying terror suspects, hell they haven’t even revised the AUMF. Of course fixing the detainee situation, clarifying what the AUMF says, setting up a national security court, all of these things are politically unpopular. Filibustering a CIA director nominee? Not so much. Now perhaps political theater is better than nothing. But Paul’s actually put legislative effort into say, attaching Fetal Personhood to bills about flood insurance. One might hope that this would be a situation where he’d be offering more than just words.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  17. C. Clavin says:

    @ JKB…
    Are you serious? I mean really?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  18. mantis says:

    @Ben Wolf:

    Paul, whom I personally consider to be a relatively bad person, has done the right thing. At least someone did.

    No, he did the thing that he thinks will help him win elections. He did not actually do the right thing.

    Why filibuster the nomination of the CIA director? The CIA isn’t going to be attacking Americans in the US with drones no matter what. As mistermix points out at Balloon Juice, he could filibuster a defense appropriations bill and propose an amendment to force the administration to “release more information on drone killings, at a minimum, or to require specific authorizations of force before drones are used in any foreign country, or any number of other limitations that tied drone use and disclosure to funding.” That might actually make a difference. But Paul isn’t interested in that. He just wants to grandstand during an irrelevant proceeding to pander to his father’s fans and folks like Doug so he can raise campaign funds and win elections, rather than actually use the power of the Senate to restrain the executive’s ability to do whatever it is he’s objects to.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  19. michael reynolds says:

    Crazy Person Says: Is it okay for the CIA to send mind-control waves to the fillings in my molars.

    Attorney General Says: Um. . . Well, hmm, I’d have to say it’s a ridiculous question, but I don’t know. Maybe if you were a zombie. Heh heh.

    Crazy Person Says: So you admit it! I’m going to hold my breath until I turn blue!

    Attorney General: Okay, no. (sigh.) No it is not okay for the CIA to control you via your fillings.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  20. al-Ameda says:

    Rand Paul was engaging in the time-honored practice of attention-whoring. Most people outside of Rand’s electoral base understood Holder’s initial comments (guarded, leaving open the possibility of use) very well. This was an empty calorie kabuki for his base.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  21. David M says:

    The key point to remember on this filibuster is that Rand Paul is at best a stopped clock and more likely a nut job peddling conspiracy theories to crazy people. Even given the benefit of the doubt here, he’s still an embarrassment to Congress.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  22. Mikey says:

    Rand Paul talked a lot, but Ron Wyden distilled it down to a single sentence that embodies the principle too many here are forgetting.

    “Mr. President, what it comes down to is every American has the right to know when their government believes that it is allowed to kill them.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  23. @Mikey:

    ““Mr. President, what it comes down to is every American has the right to know when their government believes that it is allowed to kill them.” “

    Yeah, not so sure this one’s such a slam dunk.

    If you’re a terrorist planning attacks on the US, you should worry about the government killing you. They might even use the world’s most sophisticated weapons to do it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  24. mantis says:

    @Mikey:

    Rand Paul talked a lot, but Ron Wyden distilled it down to a single sentence that embodies the principle too many here are forgetting.

    “Mr. President, what it comes down to is every American has the right to know when their government believes that it is allowed to kill them.”

    Expressing criticism of Paul does not mean one does not recognize the importance of the issue.

    As for the question, I believe it has now been answered. If you are an American citizen, the military cannot execute an order to kill you unless you are an active terrorist in another country or engaged in combat against the US while inside the US.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  25. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @mantis: Well, yeah. But I already figured that out from Holder’s initial statement.

    This particular theater event reminds me of how Chief Fitzsimons lost his job at the Seattle Police Department. In a press conference, he was asked if he was going to authorize the SPD to be armed with uzis (the preferred weapon of drug dealers of the day). In his comment, he noted that officers with sufficient shooting skills would not need uzis. Which brought the question:

    Are you saying that you can’t guarantee that the police will not kill suspects?

    The question is a little diffferent, but the feeling I get is the same.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  26. JKB says:

    @mantis: Do you think Harry Reid would not have invited the president if he wanted to address the Senate?

    First, Harry Reid can’t just invite the president, the Senate has to vote.

    Second, perhaps you aren’t familiar with a good old fashioned filibuster, but during a filibusters a Senator holds the floor and does not relinquish it for other business. So, without being able to put an invitation to a vote, the president couldn’t be invited. And if you feel Reid could independently invite the president, you still have the problem that the filibusterer has the Senate floor and does not relinquish for others to speak, including the president.

    For God’s sake, at least watch ‘Mr. Smith goes to Washington’

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  27. bob says:

    The answer was so obvious. His ego required him to try to make Obama a bad guy.

    Perhaps Paul wondered if he would be able to take out all who disagree with him if he were to win in 2016. The answer is no- always has been and always will be. Thank God!

    Next question: Does the government have authority to confiscate guns held legally. The answer is no and always will be. I am glad that I settled that. Is Rand Paul listening?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0