Ordinary Americans, and even most lawmakers, know very little about the country’s controversial use of drone strikes overseas.
The Obama administration has frequently dodged the question of whether it has the authority to order drone strikes against its own citizens on U.S. soil (we already know they think its applicable in foreign lands). On Monday, Attorney General Eric Holder essentially confirmed the fear that it could happen here, when he suggested the president could have that power under “extraordinary circumstances.”
“It is possible, I suppose, 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 in a Monday letter to Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. “Were such an emergency to arise, I would examine the particular facts and circumstances before advising the President on the scope of his authority.”
Holder, before launching into that explanation, made sure to that state such a scenario is “hypothetical, unlikely to occur, and one we hope no President will ever have to confront.” He also said such an event could only conceivably occur under times of extreme duress, such as the Pearl Harbor attack or Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Paul, however, said Holder’s answer is “frightening” and “an affront to the constitutional due process rights of all Americans.”
His concerns could also delay the nomination of Obama’s pick for CIA director, John Brennan.
Although Brennan’s nomination for the position moved forward on Tuesday, when it was approved by the Senate Intelligence Committee in a 12-3 vote, Paul may still attempt to put a hold on the nomination.
Last month, Paul threatened to filibuster the nomination until Brennan directly answered the question of whether or not the president can kill American citizens through the drone program on U.S. soil.
Brennan told Paul that “the agency I have been nominated to lead does not conduct lethal operations inside the United States — nor does it have any authority to do so,” but added that the Justice Department would have to be appealed to discuss the legality of the act.
Obama, in a Google+ Hangout last month, refused to specify whether he had the authority to order those strikes against American citizens. The vagueness of his administration on this issue has already led several lawmakers and media outlets to suspect the president dodged the question precisely because he knew the answer was “yes.”
Ashley covers U.S. politics for the International Business Times, with a focus on civil liberties, women's issues and campaign finance. Her work has also appeared in The...