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Opinion

March 10, 2013

At last, an answer

We’re glad Rand Paul kept talking and talking and talking for 13 hours between Wednesday and Thursday earlier this week on the floor of the U.S. Senate.

The move, which was designed to stall the Senate confirmation of CIA Director nominee John Brennan, is referred to as a filibuster. For Sen. Paul, it was a way to shed light on an issue that should concern all American citizens: the use of military drones to attack American citizens on U.S. soil.

There had been much discussion because President Barack Obama’s administration had not provided a firm answer regarding the use of drones on U.S. soil, something which White House Press Secretary Jay Carney cleared up when he responded to Paul’s filibuster by saying: “The President has not and would not use drone strikes against American citizens on American soil.”

According to Carney, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder also sent Paul a clarification of the Obama administration’s stance on using drones against American citizens.

That letter is different than one that Holder sent to Paul on Monday of last week, which argued a hypothetical situation like Pearl Harbor or 9/11 might force the President to use lethal force.

“The question you have posed is entirely hypothetical, unlikely to occur, and one we hope no President will ever have to confront,” Holder wrote on Monday to Paul. “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. 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.”

Holder clarified this hypothetical situation Thursday in a letter to Paul.

“It has come to my attention that you have now asked an additional question: ‘Does the president have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil?,” he wrote. “The answer to that question is no.”

Paul’s stand, later joined by more than a dozen Republicans and two Democrats, shed light on this issue and created a national discussion. It was a significant act that required endurance and commitment to an ideal. And, for that, we applaud Sen. Paul.

Armed drones are remote-controlled aircraft that have been used by the United States in hundreds of air strikes over the past 10 years, according to a Washington Post database.

The Herald-Banner’s editorial staff can be contacted at editor@heraldbanner.com.

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