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Don't Drone Me, Bro: Rand Paul's Epic Filibuster Message to President Obama

The Kentucky senator's performance was a marathon civics lesson and a scathing critique of President Obama’s civil liberties record.

Photo Credit: Rand Paul official Senate Web site


The most positive outcome of Rand Paul’s 13-hour filibuster—which ended when Paul was forced to take a bathroom break—was giving the American public a sense of the treacherous path that President Obama’s drone program could take, i.e. the targeted killing of Americans here at home. It was a marathon civics lesson and a scathing critique of President Obama’s civil liberties record.

The biggest flaw, however, was Rand’s refusal to strongly condemn the way drones are already being used overseas and to blame CIA nominee John Brennan for being the mastermind of a nefarious program that has led to the deaths of so many non-American civilians and spread anti-American sentiment globally.  While mentioning many of the problems related to drone strikes in places like Pakistan and Yemen, Rand Paul stuck to the issue of killing Americans with drones, and even more narrowly, killing Americans with drones here on US soil.

Rand Paul decided to filibuster President Obama’s nominee after  receiving a letter this month from Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. that refused to rule out the use of drone strikes within the United States in “extraordinary circumstances” like the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The Obama administration has also affirmed that Americans don’t have the right to a judicial process, just some vaguely defined “due process” that could land you on a “kill list” if high-level US officials deemed you were an imminent threat.

“I rise today to begin to filibuster John Brennan’s nomination for the CIA,” Senator Paul began. “I will speak until the alarm is sounded from coast to coast that our Constitution is important, that your rights to trial by jury are precious, that no American should be killed by a drone on American soil without first being charged with a crime, without first being found to be guilty by a court.”

Paul said that the U.S. Attorney General's refusal to rule out the possibility of drone strikes on American citizens and on American soil was an affront the Constitutional due process rights of all Americans.

"Is objecting to your government or objecting to the policies of your government sympathizing with the enemy?" Paul asked, invoking the case of Jane Fonda. "No one will ever forget Jane Fonda swiveling around in North Vietnamese armored guns, and it was despicable,” he said. “And it's one thing if you're going to try her for treason, but are you just going to drop a drone hellfire missile on Jane Fonda?"

Paul also suggested that many college campuses in the 1960s were full of Americans who could have been considered enemy sympathizers. "Are you going to drop a missile on Kent State?,” he asked.

While a series of Republicans appeared on the Senate floor to stand by Paul, the only Democrat to show support was Ron Wyden from Oregon. Wyden is the member of the Senate Intelligence Committee who had used John Brennan’s nomination as an opportunity to pressure the Obama administration to give Congress the legal documentation for targeted killings. The pressure worked, at least partially. After two years of seeking the documents, with no response, the administration finally gave the members of the Senate Intelligence Committee a chance to see the documents. Wyden says it’s not enough. A true champion of transparency, he wants the papers to be made public. And he wants more documents, including the ones that lay out the criteria for the killing of non-Americans.

Wyden said he would not oppose Brennan’s confirmation, but he felt that “the executive branch should not be allowed to conduct such a serious and far-reaching program by themselves without any scrutiny, because that’s not how American democracy works.”

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