Sen. Rand Paul will hold up the confirmation of John Brennan until the would-be CIA director sheds light on the extent of the administration’s controversial policies on drone use.
Specifically, Mr. Paul insists he wants an answer he has not received — whether drones can be used to assassinate American citizens in the U.S.
“I have asked Mr. Brennan if he believed that the president has the power to authorize lethal force, such as a drone strike, against a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil,” said Mr. Paul, Kentucky Republican. “My question remains unanswered. I will not allow a vote on this nomination until Mr. Brennan openly responds to the questions and concerns my colleagues and I share.”
Mr. Brennan, formerly a national security adviser to President Obama, has become the face of the White House’s drone program. He faced intense questioning on the subject during Senate hearings last week, and, according to Mr. Paul, dodged the issue of whether the administration could use unmanned aerial vehicles or other means to target Americans believed to be working with terrorist groups while they’re on U.S. soil.
A Justice Department memo, recently leaked to NBC News, makes clear that the administration believes it’s on solid legal footing when targeting American citizens abroad, but it’s unclear whether the White House believes it can strike them in the homeland.
“These issues must be discussed openly so that the American people can understand what constraints exist on the government’s power to use lethal force against its citizens,” Mr. Paul said.
Senate Democrats had floated a plan to create a new so-called “drone assassination court,” where a judge or panel of judges would decide whether a drone strike is justified. The idea had been gaining some traction, but a leading Republican senator rebuked the idea Wednesday.
“I think it’s a terrible idea,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, according to The Hill. It would be “the biggest intrusion … in the history of the country” on the president’s role as commander in chief.
Ironically, Mr. Graham himself also has threatened to hold up the confirmation of Mr. Brennan, though for an unrelated reason. He’s seeking more information about the president’s role during the Sept. 11 terror attacks in Benghazi, Libya, that claimed the lives of four Americans.