Troubled by the Obama administration’s controversial policy on drone use, Sen. Rand Paul on Wednesday said he will hold up the confirmation of John O. Brennan as CIA director.
Specifically, Mr. Paul insists he wants an answer he has not received — whether Mr. Brennan believes drones can be used to assassinate American citizens on American soil.
“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, the Kentucky Republican who delivered the tea party response to President Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday night.
“My question remains unanswered,” he said. “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 the president, has become the face of the White House’s drone program. He faced intense questioning on the subject during Senate confirmation 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 have terrorist ties 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 and entirely legal. The idea had gained some traction, but a leading Republican senator rebuked it 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, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.