Sen. Paul: ‘Frightening’ Holder won’t rule out domestic drone strikes

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) blasted a suggestion from Attorney General Eric Holder that the government could order drone strikes in the U.S., calling the idea “frightening.”

“The U.S. Attorney General’s refusal to rule out the possibility of drone strikes on American citizens and on American soil is more than frightening, it is an affront to the Constitutional due process rights of all Americans,” said Paul in a statement.

Paul has pressed the administration on its use of armed drones against terror suspects, in particular American citizens abroad, and had questioned whether such attacks could be ordered domestically.

Paul’s concern over the matter also threatens to further delay the nomination of President Obama’s pick for CIA director, John Brennan. 

Brennan’s nomination moved forward Tuesday after he was approved by the Senate Intelligence Committee in a 12-3 vote after the White House agreed to release all Justice Department legal opinions on drone attacks to the panel.

But Paul was still weighing whether to put a hold on Brennan’s nomination or address his concerns about the drone program in a floor speech, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday.

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Holder refused to rule out the possibility of drone attacks on U.S. soil in a letter to Paul dated Monday.

While the attorney general in his letter called the possibility “entirely hypothetical” and “unlikely to occur,” he declined to close the door on such an option.

“It is possible, I supposed, to imagine an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the President to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States,” Holder wrote. “For example, the President could conceivably have no choice but to authorize the military to use such force if necessary to protect the homeland in the circumstances of a catastrophic attack like the ones suffered on December 7, 1941, and September 11, 2001.”

Lawmakers have pressed the White House for more information on its use of the strikes and its legal justifications.

Brennan faced sharp questioning from senators at his hearing on the drone program and vigorously defended the strikes. He said they were critical to protecting the nation and that officials took care to minimize collateral damage. 

Brennan in his previous work at the CIA and as the president’s top counterterrorism adviser played a central role in developing and implementing the administration’s use of drones to target Americans suspected of terror ties abroad.