Attorney General

A drone strike in a US cafe? In a 'catastrophic attack'? Holder responds to questions


Attorney General Eric Holder is providing a simple answer to Sen. Rand Paul’s latest questions about drone strikes.

The Republican senator from Kentucky talked for nearly 13 hours in a Senate filibuster on Wednesday as he demanded answers about the government’s drone strike policy. Holder responded on Thursday in a two sentence letter, report Reuters, the Associated Press and Agence France-Presse.

“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?’ ” Holder wrote. “The answer to that question is no.”

On Tuesday, Holder had issued a longer explanation that said a U.S. drone strike might be authorized in an “extraordinary circumstance,” report CNN and the Taking Note blog of the New York Times.

Holder writes in a March 4 letter to Paul that the U.S. has no intention of carrying out drone strikes here, but he doesn’t entirely rule it out. “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 writes. “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 Dec. 7, 1941, and Sept. 11, 2001.”

In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, Holder was asked if the president could order a drone strike on a U.S. citizen sitting at a café who posed no imminent threat. According to Taking Note, Holder at first said it would be “inappropriate.” After additional questioning, he said the killing would be “unconstitutional.”

Prior coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “White House agrees to provide classified drone-strike memo to some lawmakers”

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