UNOFFICIAL TRANSCRIPT: Hour 5 - Sen. Rand Paul Filibuster of Brennan Nomination
Today, Sen. Rand Paul took to the Senate floor to participate in an active filibuster of President Obama's nominee for director of the Central Intelligence Agency, John Brennan. Sen. Paul's remarks began at 11:47 a.m. ET, and as of this release, he is still participating in the filibuster. Below is video and an unofficial transcript of his remarks between approximately 3:47 p.m.-4:47 p.m. Click HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE for video and transcript of hours 1, 2, 3, and 4.
SEN. PAUL: Mr. President, I want to thank the Senator from Oregon for coming down to the floor, for being a champion for civil liberties, for being a champion for the Bill of Rights. And we get a lot of grief in Washington about lack of civility, people yelling and screaming at each other, and I think in my dealings with Senator Wyden from the other side of the aisle, it's been evident that people can be from different perspectives, find common ground, and also really try to get to a point - which really isn't a partisan point. I have tried to make them since I have been down to this not so much about Brennan, but it's about the principles.
I've voted for two or three of the nominations, three of the nominations so far of the president because I think he deserves some latitude in his political nominees. With regard to a couple of things, I think the Senator from Oregon hit it really well, that the problem of -- we had this use of authorization of force on Afghanistan. Most people think that was going to war in Afghanistan, but now it's been so broadly interpreted that it means worldwide war basically forever, and that's sort of why we get into some of these problems, because not only is it worldwide, which is a big debate in itself, now worldwide means us at home, too, the battlefield is here. I agree with the Senator from Oregon that Brennan was very forthright and it was a little bit onerous getting the response, but once we got the response, it was exactly what was appropriate. He said he would obey the law, the law is very clear, the CIA does not operate in the United States.
The only problem is not with his response but that the department of defense is the one directing the drone program so it doesn't really answer the final question. On holder's response, if it would have been written by the Senator from Oregon as he states it, there probably wouldn't be so much problem. I think that maybe the recounting of the letter gives it a little more strength than the letter actually possesses in its own words. If he were to say that we were ruling out all strikes other than extraordinary strikes, that would actually be a pretty good letter, but instead he says that he can imagine, I suppose, under certain circumstances that -- and he lists a couple circumstances, and the interesting thing is, is pearl harbor and 9/11, a lot of us agree, probably you, probably me, we all agree we can repel a military attack. The reason we ask the next question and the reason I'm concerned about the next question -- and I have only seen the unclassified versions of these, but the unclassified versions of the drone attacks indicate that a significant amount of them are not killing people with a weapon. People like to talk about "if you take up arms." Well, a lot of these peopte aren't in arms. It doesn't make them good people, but they aren't carrying arms around. They are not actively shooting our soldiers or us. And so the question becomes is -- the particular time they are killed, they looked like noncombatants. So if you have somebody who is sitting in a cafe in our country, even if they are a bad person, you would probably rather arrest them. One, they would get the due process of our country. Two, if they were arrested and they were bad people, you might actually get some information from them. So I would like to see a little bit better wording. And the last thing I would say, and I appreciate hearing your response is, the attorney general was in the judiciary committee this morning and was asked a bunch of questions on this. I have looked through the transcript of a couple of them and it's still like pulling teeth. I mean, he was asked four times "do you think it's constitutional to kill someone in a cafe in Seattle or Houston or Louisville," and he kept saying it wasn't appropriate, but language is important, you know, when we're talking about this. Appropriate is not strong enough. It's sort of like the president saying I have no intention. We really just want him to say he won't, you know. Not having intention. So he finally didn't quite put it together in his response but in his response combined with the questioning, you can get the opinion that maybe he thinks it's not constitutional to kill noncombatants having dinner. But boy, wouldn't it be a lot easier if they would just say that? And at this point, I would entertain a question without yielding the floor.
SEN. WYDEN: Mr. President?
The presiding officer: The Senator from Oregon is recognized. SEN. WYDEN: Just to respond to the Senator from Kentucky's point in noting the fact that he would not be giving up the floor in the process, I think that the Senator from Kentucky is making an important point, and the way I read it, it really would focus on ensuring that our country would be protected against those kind of exceptional circumstances, and I would just like to leave the discussion here by noting that I think both of us feel that this is just the beginning of this debate. The nature of warfare has changed so dramatically. We are going to have to
-- and I particularly appreciate the chance to work on this in a bipartisan way -- we are going to have to be continually digging in and trying to excavate more information about how all of this actually works without in any way jeopardizing sources and methods and kind of ongoing operations. I think we can do it. And with respect to how I read particularly that part of the letter -- and I thought a lot about it -- I said, I think that the two of us and others who could be part of -- we can call it the "Checks and Balances Caucus" -- but we can just make sure people understand it is about liberty and security. I think we can flush this out more in the days ahead. I know that I've had four sessions now with the classified, you know, documents that were made available as a member of the intelligence committee, and I still have a lot of questions. And some of those, I think we will have to ask in a classified way. But I think others of them we can ask in a public way and the two of us can work on that together. I think there is a very strong case for beginning to declassify some of the information with respect to these drone policies. I think that can be done as well consistent with protect being our national security. So I think the Senator from Kentucky has made a number of important points this afternoon. I thank him for the chance to work with him on these issues and look forward to continuing this discussion in the days ahead and appreciate this time this afternoon.
SEN. PAUL: Mr. President?
The presiding officer: The Senator from Kentucky.
SEN. PAUL: A lot of the process for getting this information wouldn't have happened without the Senator from Oregon as well as the senior Senator from georgia, both working together to get information. It's really the way the system ought to be working. And one of the, I think, good things about the body is, both Republicans and Democrats working together to get information from, not necessarily adversarial, but in a way adversarial, another branch of of government
-- we are a branch of government, but it is not partisan against partisan; it's bipartisan working for the power of the checks and balances to try to ensure a leveling. But I want to thank him for helping to get the information to make this a much fuller debate. Mr. President, at this time, without yielding the floor, I would like to entertain a question from the Senator from Florida.
The Presiding officer: The Senator from Florida is recognized.
SEN. RUBIO: Thank you for the opportunity. Let me begin by, I know you've been here a while, just let me give you some free advice -- keep some water nearby and keep it handy. Trust me. Anyway, thank you for entertaining my question. Let me just begin by saying that, because my question to you is about the motivation for being here on the floor for you today. What brought me here -- I've been reading some of the accounts of what has been going on here and people have been talking about the Senator from Kentucky is involved in a filibuster. Some are already characterizing it as another Republican filibuster one of the President's nominees. But, just to be clear, I guess my question, because I understand this from everything you say and what you've been saying up until now, your primary issue that brings you to the floor today is that you've asked a very straightforward question on an issue of constitutional importance and yet, you have not received a straightforward answer. And certainly not only you have not received an answer, but we saw testimony earlier this morning that, quite frankly, I watched the video two or three times and I personally do not understand why it was so difficult to say "yes" or "no." So just to be clear, your motivation for being on the floor is not to deny the president a vote on one of his nominees. Your motivation is that you have asked this administration a very important and relevant question and have been unable to receive a straightforward answer to that question.
SEN. PAUL: Mr. President, my response to this is that, yes, in fact I've actually voted for several of the president's nominations. And my trying to draw attention to this issue is because I believe that it's an incredibly fundamental issue. And that is of, you know, how you would kill people -- Americans on American soil, whether the constitution applies, whether the Fifth Amendment applies. So my motivation in doing this is really not partisan. It is something that has to do -- and I have a said frankly, and I truly mean this. If it were a republican president today, I would still be in the same place because the American people deserve answers on this. And there are different rules in war than there are here, and we need to acknowledge and separate ourself and say we're not completely -- we're not in the middle of a battle zone. We still do have Miranda rights, you still do get an attorney in the United States. And it is not the same battlefield. But he is bringing battlefield strategy home, we have to know, and he should, before he starts doing it, we need to know: What are the rules? Does the constitution apply?
Mr. President, I would entertain a further question from the Senator from Georgia -- I mean, from Florida without losing the -- yielding the floor.
SEN. RUBIO: Without yielding the floor, Senator, the follow-up question I have -- because I think this is actually a very useful exercise for the folks that have been snowed in today and there's nothing better to watch but C-Span, or have been able to be with us here today, to actually understand the structure of our government and how it was designed because it is my personal opinion that we have gotten away from that. So let me describe for a second, my position and it leads up to the question that I'm going to ask. I am actually a member of the Intelligence Committee, which means that we reviewed this nomination. And I have questions that I care about that were somewhat different than the valid ones that the Senator from Kentucky is raising. And as a member of that committee, I asked those questions. The nominee answered those questions. But we have a job to do. I think that's what's important for people to understand. Members of the Senate have an important constitutional role to give advice and consent on these nominations. We have an obligation, not just to pass these folks through but to actually ask serious question, to determine if they're qualified for the position they're going to hold. I mean, you want your Senators to be doing that. And both parties, no matter who the president may be. And so I undertook that effort as part of the intelligence committee. I asked my questions. I got answers to my questions and believed that the nominee was qualified, believe that the president has a right to his nominees, even if they're not the people that we would nominate, believe that, ultimately, these nominees deserve a vote. And that's why I voted to move this nomination on. Now, just because -- just as the president has a right to his nominations, and ultimately to have a vote on those nominations, so, too, do members of the senate have a right to their role, and in particular to ask relevant questions on issues of important public policy and get answers from the Administration. This is not -- and I think sometimes this is being lost. We have different branches of government, they're coequal branches of government. The presidency, the executive branch, is it important? Absolutely it's important. It is the commander in chief. It is the top single office in the nation. But the legislative branch is a coequal branch with a job just as important. And in order to do that job, we have to have access to information, the ability to ask relevant questions, and get straight answers and, to be frank, sometimes I feel, when we ask questions of this administration, like they feel like it's beneath them to answer questions from us from time to time. I think that's very unfortunate. I think my question is, when you're here today, Senator, raising these issues -- it's my opinion, I would like to hear what you have to say. This is more than just an issue of the constitutionality of this particular program. It's a defense of of this institution. It is a defense of the legislative branch. It is a defense of the senate as an institution. Irrespective about how you feel about the nominee or the nomination or the program or where you fall on this constitutional issue, it is a defense of this institution and of its constitutional -- not constitutional right, constitutional obligation to ask relevant questions of public policy and to get answers. To ask questions so the people back home will know the answers to these questions. If we're not going to ask these questions, who's going to ask them? The press? Maybe, in a press conference but that's not what they're paid to do, that's what we're paid to do. That's what we were elected to do. So I'd like to hear your views on that, because my belief, from what I'm picking up from everything you're saying here today you're actually on the floor here today standing up for the obligations that this institution has to ask questions like this and to be able to get straight answers to these questions.
SEN. PAUL: Well, Mr. President, I think the Senator from Florida has got it exactly right. This is about checks and balances, it's about the co-equal branches of government, and it's about how we limit usurpation of power by checking and balancing each of the different powers. So when Montesquieu wrote that there can be no liberty when you combine the executive and legislative, they were separated for a reason.
When the Constitution says that congress declares war, not the president, it was separated for a reason. So when we look forward to these things, and the Senator from Kansas brought this up earlier -- when the president says, "oh, I have the ability to determine when you are in session or not and I can do recess the appointments when I think you're out of session." Boy, that is a great usurpation of power to one branch and we should fight it as an institution, republican and democrat and not make this partisan, not make these partisan issues. And so I agree with you. I think there is a need for those checks and balances and by the body not struggling to get as much information as they can, not really, in this case as much about the individual as about the policy, then I think it is a mistake for the body not do it and I agree with you completely. It is -- it is something that should be defended and it's not something to be derided as partisan because I don't see it as partisan at all. I see it as a defense of the separation of powers and of the checks and balances. And, Mr. President, at this time, I would yield -- without yielding the floor -- for another question.
SEN. RUBIO: And this will probably be my last question, before I get to it let me just say that all the other Senators that are -- and I know some of my colleagues have already come to the floor and some might be watching or some might be nearby. I would just say this, just think about this for a moment: You may or may not agree with the Senator from Kentucky's position on this issue. Maybe you have seen the Attorney General's answer or you saw his testimony this morning and you're satisfied with it. Maybe you're not that concerned about this issue at all. I don't think that's the issue. I think what we need to remember is that all of us have something we care deeply about or multiple things we care deeply about and the day will come, the day will come when something you care about or some issue you're involved in or some question that you have, that you will try to raise that question and it may be under a different administration -- I think we have to remember that the President not be president forever. There will be a new president in three and a half years and after that and so forth and some of the folks that are here now may still be here. At some point in the future, all of us will have questions we want answered and we will have an administration or some other organism of government that refuses to give us answers, straight answers. And when that moment comes, you will want your colleagues to rally to your side, even if they don't agree with you and defend your right as a representative of the people of your state to ask important questions, particularly questions of constitutional importance, and get straight answers to those questions.
It's my feeling here today, and the Senator will have to comment on this, if he had just gotten a straight answer to that letter, if he had just gotten a straight answer in the testimony today, this would not be necessary. If simply, they would have taken in the question, which I think is a pretty straightforward question, and answered it in a straightforward way, all of this could have been avoided and this nominee could have had a vote. But instead they've decided to go in a different direction and it baffles me. But here is the question that I have. I think this is important for the folks that are watching back home because they may say, why do you have to do it this way? Why can't you just ask the question and not have to do this process of stopping things from moving forward? I think my view is and I want to share them with the Senator and get his impressions are twofold- number one, because these are the tools at our disposal. That's why the system was created, the way it was designed this way. One of the things that the Senate has at its disposal to preserve and protect its prerogative to ask important questions of this type, are the rules that we've set up here. And they don't protect one Senator, they protect every Senator here. Everyone here, even if I don't agree with you. One of the things that gives you the ability to ask and have questions answered, is this role we have in confirming nominees. And secondly, I would say this is not the Secretary of the Treasury. This is not some other unrelated cabinet position. This is the central intelligence agency, which is directly related to the program that the Senator from Kentucky has relevant questions about. And so I guess I'd want to hear from him a little bit more about why he chose this particular nomination and why and how it's relevant to the larger question that he's asking.
SEN. PAUL: Well, Mr. President, the answer to the question is that, we've tried the normal channels and have been for a month. We sent the standard letters. We sent three different letters to John Brennan and didn't get any response. But then when the leverage became used or the leverage became apparent that both republicans and democrats on the intelligence committee were asking for more answers, then we finally began to get answers. The answers, unfortunately, didn't quite answer the question. As the days worn on, we've actually gotten more answers. Since I've been standing here this morning, we've now gotten a report of the attorney general's testimony before the Judiciary Committee. In that, under withering cross-examination, I guess is the best to put it, he finally owns up and says well, maybe somebody in a cafe, it wouldn't be appropriate to kill them in America. Well, the Senator from texas wanted one step further. We don't want you to say whether it is aprpropriate, We want you to say whether you think you have the power to do it, whether you think you have the constitutional authority to kill someone who is a noncombatant in a restaurant or in their house or in their church or wherever? Do you think you have the power to kill noncombatants? It is a pretty important question. And I think we may have eeked some of the answer out from attorney general holder. It would be nice if we would actually get that in clean language with the attorney general would now say that this is our policy. But, see, this comes from allowing the executive branch so much power. If you allow them to make the rules, to make the decisions without any kind of oversight or scrutiny, the danger is that there really will be no
-- no process. So the thing is, is that right now we have a program going on where we kill people around the world with drone strikes and there are criteria and standards for how we do it.
And the obvious question is: You're going to do that in America, under what standards?
We have had at least allegations, we have had some who have said the bulk of the drone strikes around the world have been signature killings, which means the people aren't identified who's being killed, that it's a long line of traffic and we blow up the line of traffic. Now, you can debate whether in war you may have a looser criteria for who you're blowing up but I would think that in America, we wouldn't blow up a caravan going from a wedding to a funeral, from a church to the house, from a political meeting back to their home. We would have different rules in America. If you're accused of a crime, if they think you're somehow a terrorist, then they would arrest you, particularly if you're in a noncombat opportunity. Why in the world would the president take the position that if if you're eating in a cafeteria, you're eating in a restaurant, you're at home asleep, that you couldn't be arrested? So it's a really easy question and the president should just very frankly answer the question, "I will not kill noncombatants. In America." I mean, I just can't imagine why the president can't answer an easy question. Now, there have been people on both the right and the left that have been asking these questions. Glenn Greenwald writes a lot about this issue and this is a pretty, I think, interesting proposition he puts forward. He says, "if you posit that the entire world is a battlefield, then you're authorizing him to do anywhere in the world what he can do on the battlefield." That's been my point. If the United States is a battlefield and we're going to have the rule of
-- the laws of war, or another way it can be put, martial law in America, if we're going to have that in America, boy, you need to know about it. Because martial law -- living under martial law is the way they live in Egypt. That's why they just had a rebellion of Egypt and overthrew Mubarak because they had, by martial law, indefinite detention. So those who say "the battlefield is here," we need to live under the laws of war in our country and they tell you to shut up if you want an attorney, by golly, be careful about that. Be quite careful if you're going to let us go to that sense. So, Greenwald goes on, he says, "if this -- if we can do on a battlefield what we can do anywhere, we can do here, kill, imprison, eavesdrop, detain, all without limits or oversight or accountability, that's what the 'world is a battle field' theory, that's why this is so radical and alarming, not to mention controversial."
He also quotes from Esquire from Charles Pierce, who said, "this is why the argument many liberals are making that the drone program is acceptable, both morally and as a matter of practical politics, because of the faith that you have in the guy who happens to be presiding over it at the moment. So you'll remember that many of these people didn't like George Bush and they railed and railed about wiretaps and now they're suspiciously quiet that we get to a killing program. But he says that if you have so much confidence because you like the guy, the president in charge of this, he says that that's criminally naive, intellectually empty, and as false as blue money to the future.
He goes on to say that "the powers we have allowed to leech away from their constitutional points of origin into that office have created in the presidency a foul strain of outlawry. That worse is now seen as the proper order of things. If that is the case," and the author says he believes it is, then the very nature of the presidency of the United States at its core has become a vehicle for permanently unlawful behavior. This is coming from a liberal. Every four years we elect a new criminal because that's become the precise job description. So we have to ask some important questions. I'm not asking any questions about the president's motives. I don't question his motives. I, frankly, don't think he will be killing people in restaurants tonight or in their house tonight. But this is about the rule of law. It isn't so much about him. It isn't so much about John Brennan. It's about having rules so that someday if we do have the misfortune of electing someone you do not trust, electing someone who might kill innocent people or who might kill people that they disagree with politically or they might kill people who they disagree with religiously or might kill people of another ethnic group, we're protected. That's what these protections are about. But they aren't so much about the individuals involved now. But there is a program that's going on around the world that is killing individuals with drones. And it's done in a warlike fashion. And the thing is, is that in war, you don't get due process. So these people around the world don't get Miranda rights and I'm not arguing for that. If you have a gun leveled at an American in Afghanistan, you're going to be killed with no due process. I'm not arguing for that. But I am arguing that it's different if you're in Afghanistan pointing a weapon at us or here pointing a weapon at us. It is different if you're eating dinner or if you're in your home at night. So I think there are clear and distinct differences and there's no excuse for the president not giving us a clear-cut answer.
There's a writer by the name of Connor Friedersdorf who writes for The Atlantic and I'll get into that in just a minute. At this time, Mr. President, I'd like to, without yielding the floor, stop for a question from the Senator from Georgia.
SEN. CHAMBLISS: Well, I thank the Senator from Kentucky. And, first of all, let me say I appreciate the Senator's passion. I appreciate the fact that as he knows, he and I have had some discussions about this issue over the last several days and weeks, and I appreciate you bringing this to the forefront as you've done. We've -- we have talked about your question that you submitted to Mr. Brennan for answering and this is not a rocket science question. This is a question that is perfectly reasonable, perfectly rational and a question that ought to be able to be addressed by the Administration in a very quick, simple, direct response. And I have been dumbfounded, as the Senator from Kentucky knows, about the fact that you didn't get a straightforward, simple answer immediately.
But the fact of whether or not a drone attack -- and I am one of those who thinks that we need to detain and interrogate folks as opposed to just firing drones at everybody, because we're losing a lot of valuable information from folks that we take shots at versus folks that we're able to detain and interrogate -- but, still, I know the Senator from Kentucky agrees with me that at the end of the day, we need to take out bad guys, guys that seek to do us harm. And your position all along has been that with due process, that ought to happen.
My question to the Senator from is to the Senator is, you know, with the administration not giving you a straightforward answer -- and I understand that the attorney general, in response to some questions today in the judiciary committee again was very evasive on the question, in spite of having given you a letter just yesterday on this issue, that there still is not a straightforward, black-or-white -- as it appears to me they could give you -- answer to this question. Am I correct about that?
SEN. PAUL: Mr. President, the Senator from Georgia is correct. And I also while he's on the floor want to thank him for getting some of this information to come forward, because it has been a very onerous task. And without his leadership on the intelligence committee as well as republicans and democrats asking for more information, we wouldn't have gotten anywhere here. And with that input, we've been able to get some answers. The answers haven't all been good. Brennan has answered I think the appropriate answer, the CIA doesn't work within the United States and that should be pretty obvious, because everybody knows that and that's the law.
The problem is, is he doesn't answer the final question because the drone program is under the department of defense, and really if we're going to bring that home to America, I -- I really think the intelligence committee as well as the whole body ought to be not just waiting for the president to tell us how he's going to use it in America, really we have civil law in America and we ought to be part of that process. But I don't think we can allow it to go on without our input.
SEN. CHAMBLISS: Let me, Mr. President, if I could ask the Senator again, a little different, question just to make sure that I understand the -- exactly what the Senator has asked for, your position, as I understand it, has been, all along, that if we have bad guys flying airplanes into a tower or if we have folks who are firing missiles or tanks or weapons of any sort in the United States seeking to carry out an act of war, an act of terrorism, taking those guys out is not a problem.
SEN. PAUL: Yeah, Mr. President, the idea of combating lethal force I don't think is questioned by very few, if anybody. You know, if planes are flying into the Twin Towers, we obviously send up F-16's, if we have missiles -- we do whatever we can to stop an attack on America. What I'm really concerned about
-- and in the same way if it's a domestic terrorist. If there's someone outside the capitol with a grenade launcher, we don't give them Miranda rights, we kill them. I mean, that's just the way it works. If you are exerting lethal force against American soldiers anywhere in the world or our country, you use lethal force to stop that. And sometimes you can't stop to even ask permission from congress, you do that. Imminent threats are repulsed. But because a lot of the drone attacks -- and I'm not saying they're necessarily wrong the way they're done, it's just that they're done at people that aren't in the middle of a battle. So if we transfer that to America, I don't think that's acceptable for Americans. It's a different debate on whether it's always a good idea, whether we should do it and what the rules should be overseas. But the rules we have currently I don't think are appropriate for the United States.
SEN. CHAMBLISS: Let me -- Mr. President, if I could ask the Senator again a little different question just to make sure that I understand the -- exactly what the Senator has asked for, your position, as I understand it, has been all along that if we have bad guys flying airplanes into a tower or if we have folks who are firing missiles or tanks or weapons of any sort in the United States seeking to carry out an act of war, an act of terrorism, taking those guys out is not a problem.
SEN. PAUL: Yeah, Mr. President, the idea of combating lethal force I don't think is questioned by very few if anybody. You know, if planes are flying into the twin towers, we obviously send up F-16's, if we have missiles. We do whatever we can to stop an attack on America. What I'm really concerned about -- and in the same way if it's a domestic terrorist. If there's someone outside the capitol with a grenade launcher, we don't give them Miranda rights, we kill them. I mean, that's just the way it works. If you are exerting lethal force against American soldiers anywhere in the world or our country, you use lethal force to stop that. And sometimes you can't stop to even ask permission from Congress, you do that. Imminent threats are repulsed. But because a lot of the drone attacks -- and I'm not saying they're necessarily the wrong the way they're done, it's just that they're done at people that aren't in the middle of a battle. So if we transfer that to America, I don't think that's acceptable for America. It's a different debate on whether it's always a good idea, whether we should do it and what the rules should be overseas. But the rules we have currently I don't think are appropriate for the United States.
SEN. CHAMBLISS: And, again, Mr. President, if I could direct a question to the Senator, the fact is that from a pure oversight standpoint, Armed Services, Intel, these committees that have jurisdiction over the issue of fighting the war on terrorism need to have the right kind of information so that we can ask the right questions. And getting the right kind of information out of this administration has been worse than having a root canal and more difficult than having a root canal. And I, again, am appreciative of the Senator being forceful in asking the question, and I think at the end of the day, again, you have had no issue relative to ultimately - let's having a vote on Mr. Brennan. I'm not supportive of the nomination of Mr. Brennan but I think he ought to have a vote and I intend to express myself in much greater detail on that a little bit later. But from the standpoint of simply moving the issue forward, if the administration had come to you with a direct answer days or weeks ago when you asked the question, we probably would not be here now. So, again, I thank the Senator for his comments on this issue.
SEN. PAUL: Well, Mr. President, I want to thank the ranking member of the Intelligence Committee and also say that this could come to a close any time. If the president will sort of say what Attorney General Holder was trying to say this morning and put it into actual words, that he thinks that he has the military authority to reject imminent attack, I think we all agree to that. But if he says that he's not going to use drones on people who are not engaged in combat in America, I think we could be done with this debate. I think one phone call from the president to clarify what his position is or from the attorney general to actually write out what his position is, but I guess the reason I'm kind of alarmed is we have a quote from the attorney general saying that the fifth amendment, the executive branch will decide when and if to -- to use the fifth amendment. Now, I understand times of war and in battlefields. That's a different story. I'm talking about in the United States. I don't think the executive branch gets an option of whether to adhere to the Fifth Amendment in the United States. And but if they could be more clear on that, I think we could be done with this debate any time. I've never objected to a vote on Brennan, on the nominee for C.I.A., But I have objected to the idea that basically the -- we're just going to throw out the baby with the bath water and the Bill Of Rights becomes something of -- of lesser importance.
MR. REID: Mr. President? Would my friend yield...
The presiding officer: The majority leader is recognized.
MR. REID: Would my friend yield without losing the floor for a unanimous consent request?
SEN. PAUL: Without losing the -- or yielding the floor, I would be happy to entertain a question.
The presiding officer: The majority leader.
MR. REID: Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the Senate proceed to the consideration of calendar number 43, that the cloture motion at the desk be reported, the mandatory quorum under rule 22 be waived, there be 90 minutes for debate with 30 minutes under the control of the chair and one hour under the control of the vice chair of the Intelligence Committee, with 30 minutes of the vice chair's time under the control of Senator Paul. Following the use or yielding back of that time on the nomination, the Senate proceed to vote on the cloture motion. If cloture is invoked, the Senate proceed to vote on confirmation of the nomination with no intervening action or debate. Further, that the motion to reconsider be considered made and laid on the table with no intervening action or debate, and no further motions be in order to the nomination, that President Obama be immediately notified of the Senate's action, and the Senate resume legislative session. Mr. President, before I hear from my friends on the consent, I have no problem if people want to talk for long times, no problem. I have done that a time or two in my days, but I think that the rest of the body needs to know if we're going to finish tonight or tomorrow or the next day. So my consent request is pretty direct. We would have 90 more minutes of debate, an hour under the control of the Senator from Georgia and 30 minutes under the control of Senator Feinstein or their designees.
The presiding officer: Is there objection to the majority leader's consent request?
MR. REID: I would just simply say if there is objection, we'll just come back tomorrow.
SEN. CHAMBLISS: Reserving the right to object.
The presiding officer: The Senator from Georgia.
SEN. CHAMBLISS: If I may direct a question to the majority leader through the chair, as I understand what you are asking for is 90 more minutes, 30 minutes for Senator Feinstein, 30 minutes for me.
MR. REID: You would have 30, he would have 30.
SEN. CHAMBLISS: And Senator Paul would have 30 minutes. And does your consent, it would start right now, basically, or?
MR. REID: Yeah, basically.
SEN. CHAMBLISS: Continuing to reserve the right to object, I guess then I would direct a question to the Senator from Kentucky since he has the floor of what amount of time you think you want to utilize.
The presiding officer: The Senator from Kentucky is recognized.
SEN. PAUL: Mr. President, reserving the right to object, I would be happy with the vote now. I have talked a lot today. But the only thing I would like is a clarification. If the president or the attorney general will clarify that they are not going to kill noncombatants in America. He essentially almost said that this morning. He could take his remarks that he virtually agreed ultimately with Senator Cruz, put it into a coherent statement that says the drone program will not kill Americans who are not involved in combat. I think he probably agrees to that. I don't understand why we couldn't put that into words, but if he does, I want no more time, but if not, I will continue to object if the administration and the attorney general will not provide an adequate answer. And I object.
MR. REID: I'm not in a position to talk for the attorney general. We'll just finish this matter tomorrow.
The presiding officer: The objection is heard. The Senator from Kentucky is recognized.
MR. REID: Everyone should plan on coming tomorrow. We're through for the night.
A Senator: I'm not sure, Mr. President, exactly
The presiding officer: Objection is heard.
SEN. PAUL: Mr. President, at this time, without yielding the floor, I'd like to entertain a question from the Senator from Pennsylvania.
The presiding officer: The Senator from Pennsylvania is recognized.
SEN. TOOMEY: Thank you, Mr. President. I want to thank the Senator from Kentucky for raising I think a very, very important issue, and I would just like to kind of walk through a little bit of clarification so that I understand clearly exactly what's transpired here and the exact question to which the Senator from Kentucky would like a response. For my perception, my understanding is this seems like a very simple and basic request, and so I'm surprised that we don't have a simple and straightforward answer. So I wonder if the Senator from Kentucky would just -- just summarize briefly for me so that I understand clearly the exact request that you made to the administration.
SEN. PAUL: Mr. President, in late January, we sent a letter to John Brennan, the nominee for the C.I.A., asking a bunch of questions, but included among those questions was can you kill an American in America with a drone strike? And we got no response and no response and no response. Thanks to the intervention of the ranking member on the intelligence committee as well as members from the opposite aisle on the intelligence committee, we finally got an answer about two days ago. The answer from John Brennan was that he acknowledges the C.I.A. cannot act in the United States. That is the law and that was nice. But the attorney general responded and said that they don't intend to, they haven't yet but they might.
SEN. TOOMEY: And am I correct in understanding that that's currently the state of play? That's the most recent response you have gotten in writing from the administration?
SEN. PAUL: Mr. President, that's the only direct response I have gotten. I have also read the testimony from the judiciary committee where the Senator from Texas cross-examined the attorney general who responded indirectly to my question by saying it was inappropriate, it was inappropriate, we probably wouldn't do that, but wouldn't answer directly whether it was unconstitutional or not. It appears at the end that he may have said that it would be unconstitutional to kill noncombatants. It should be a pretty simple answer. And, really, that's all I am asking. I can be done any time if I can just get a response from the administration or from the attorney general saying that they do not believe they have the authority to kill noncombatants in America.
SEN. TOOMEY: Mr. President, to further follow up on further clarification here, if the administration seems to be unwilling to state unequivocally that they recognize that they do not have the legal authority to kill a noncombatant American on American soil, did they suggest under what circumstances they would? Did they suggest a process by which they would identify an American citizen, noncombatant on American soil that might be subject to being killed by a drone strike?
SEN. PAUL: Well, Mr. President, there has been a white paper that was released that goes through a series of things. They do have a step or a process they go through in determining who to kill. The problem I have is that in foreign countries, I don't know the exact number because it's classified, but in foreign countries, many of the people being killed aren't actively engaged in combat. And I'm not saying that's right or wrong or making an opinion on that, but I'm saying that's not a standard I can live with in the united states, so let's say a third of the drone strikes are going against people that are eating dinner with their family or walking down the road or sleeping in their house. If that is our standard and we're going to do drone strikes in America, I can't tolerate or I can't live with myself if i would accept a standard in the united states that would allow that to happen here.
SEN. TOOMEY: Well, Mr. President, I think, judging from the response, what I understand is that there is a standard that applies overseas, but we haven't gotten -- correct me if I'm mistaken -- but we haven't gotten a definitive word as to whether that same standard would apply domestically to American citizens or not. And just to say and if we haven't gotten a definitive answer, then we -- it seems to me, and again correct me if I'm wrong, but it suggests to me we have no idea what standard would be used, and I can't imagine that we would find it acceptable to be in a situation where an administration would suggest that using the drone to kill an American noncombatant on American soil without even disclosing the process by which they would determine that that was appropriate? This is -- this is a little -- this is kind of hard to understand. Am I understanding it incorrectly?
SEN. PAUL: Well, Mr. President, the -- the interesting thing about this is for many years, no one would talk about the drone strike program at all, and then recently one of the former spokesmen for the president said he was instructed to never say it existed, but now that it is in the open, the president a week ago was asked at Google when he was there for an interview, he was asked can you do this, and his answer was well, the rules would probably have to be different inside than outside. But that implies that he thinks he can do it inside -- in America, and then the question really becomes what are those rules. And this is as much about the checks and balances of -- you know, they say we have the ability to advise and consent. This is some friendly advice I'm giving to the president today, is that he ought to think about and we should think about as a body whether we are a check and balance to the power of the executive, whether it's republican or democrat. To me I think it's immaterial that no president should have the power to make these decisions, you know, unilaterally.
SEN. TOOMEY: Well, Mr. President, I will finish up here, but I just want to make two points here. One is I think we ought to have a -- a robust debate about the circumstances under which we would use drone strikes overseas, and understand the implications, think about this. We have what is still to the United States a relatively new threat in the form of these non-state actors, these terrorists organizations that are sometimes affiliated with each other, sometimes not, scattered around the globe. It's -- this is new. In addition, we have new technology that we never had before. It wasn't terribly long ago that the idea of flying an unmanned drone and using it to kill a person that could be hundreds or thousands of miles away, that was completely implausible. Now of course we have the ability to do it. When new circumstances and new technology come to bear, we ought to have a discussion about when and whether and how it's appropriate to use that. When we're talking about American noncombatants on American soil, I think the starting point ought to be we're not going to do that, and the onus ought to be on whoever has got an explanation for when and whether and why and under what circumstance we would, and that ought to be debated very, very carefully and thoroughly and until such time, I think it would ought to be easy to acknowledge that this is not going to take place. And if we can't get a direct answer to that question, then I have to say I think the -- the Senator from Kentucky is -- is performing an important service in putting a spotlight on this, and I commend him for doing it and I thank him for doing it. With that, I finish my questions.
SEN. PAUL: Well, Mr. President, I would thank the Senator from Pennsylvania for asking his questions and being part of the debate. I think that ultimately we could get this straightened out in the sense that it isn't so much about the debate about the person as it is about the issue, and if we could get the administration or the attorney general to put his answer in a succinct form and simply say that they believe that they have the authority to repel an attack, which most of -- I think all of us agree to that, but they don't have the authority to kill someone in a restaurant, to kill someone at home in their house, to kill someone when they are eating dinner, that really if you want to say that you can use drones in America to strike people, not only would it have to be remarkably different, it couldn't be almost anywhere like the way we use drones around the world, which brings up some other important questions. But the thing is that this has brought us to a much bigger and important debate. When people tell you that America is a battlefield, when they tell you that the battlefield is here, realize what they are telling you. They are telling you your Bill of Rights don't apply, because in the battlefield, you really don't have due process, and I'm not arguing for that. I'm not arguing for some kind of silly rules for soldiers to ask Miranda rights and do all this. War is war. War is hell. But we can't have perpetual war. We can't have war that has no temporal limits, and we can't then have war that is a part of our daily life in our country, that we're going to say from now on in our country you really don't have the protections of the bill of rights. So I think it's -- it's incredibly important. And we have been kind of blast about this whole drone strike program, and it should come home to where we can really think about it because that's what they are asking to do. They are asking to bring the drone strikes to the homeland. And so I think we really need to be careful. We need to ask important questions, and I think at the very least, we need to be asking the question, you know, can you do this with no due process? Are we not going to have an accusation, are we not going to have a public accusation or charge? Are we not going to have a trial by jury? I started out today reading from "Alice in Wonderland," and I'd like to go back to" Alice in Wonderland" because it just really I think points out the absurdity of where we are at this point. We think of Louis Carroll as being fiction. Of course it's fiction. We think, you know, Alice never fell down a rabbit hole. Of course she didn't. She is not real. The white queen and her caustic judgments, they're not really a threat to us. But there is a question -- has America the beautiful become Alice's wonderland? We can hear the queen saying no, no, but her response is sentence first, verdict afterwards. Well, that's absurd. How could we sentence someone without determining first whether they are guilty or innocent? Only in Alice's wonderland would you sentence someone before you try them. Would you sentence someone to death before you accuse them. Do we really live in Alice's Wonderland? Is there no one willing to stand up and say to the president for goodness sakes, you can't sentence people before you try them. You can't sentence people before you - he determined whether they are guilty. There has been discussion in our country about whether even the courts can sometimes make mistakes. Some states have gotten rid of the death penalty because they have made mistakes and through their DNA testing found that they sometimes convicted the wrong person. Can you imagine with all the checks and balances of our court system, which I think is the best in the entire world, with attorneys on both sides, whether you can afford one or not, there is argument back and forth and you have these procedural protections and you can appeal, and sometimes you can still get it wrong. If we can get it wrong in the best system in the world, do you think one politician might get it wrong? But you will a never know because nobody is told who is going to be killed. It is a secret list. So how do you protest? How do you say, I'm innocent? How do you say, yes, I e-mail with my cousin who lives in the Middle East, and I didn't know he was involved in that? Do you not get a chance to explain yourself in a court of law before you get a hellfire missile dropped on your head? So I think that really, it just amazes me that people are so willing and eager to throw out the bill of rights and just say, oh, that's fine. You know, terrorists are a big threat to us. And, you know, I am a so fearful that they will attack me that I'm willing to give up my rights, I'm willing to give up on the bill of rights? I think we give up too easily. Now, the president has responded and he said he hasn't killed anybody yet in America. And he says he doesn't intend to kill anyone in America, but he might. I frankly just don't think that's good enough. The president's oath of office says that I will -- not that "I might" or not that "I intend to" -- the president says "I will" protect, preserve, and defend the constitution. He doesn't say, I'll do it when it's practical or I'll do it unless it's infeasible, unless it's unpleasant and people argue with me and I have to go through congress and I can't get anything done, then I won't obey the constitution. It's out there. It is a rule. He doesn't get to choose. Recently it appears that he believes that he does have some superpower, some power that sort of exceeds the other branches of government. Recently he told the body of the Senate that he decides when we're in recess. That he decides when we're working. The court rebuked him and the court told him that it's unconstitutional and they reversed his decision and do you know the people that he appointed through a recess that he made up -- do you know what they're doing right now? They're still at their post. They're still working in defiance of the court. So this will have to go to the Supreme Court. I guess it takes another year or so to go up there. But he's been told that what he did was illegal. I guess what disappoints me most about this, though, is that you know the president, when he ran for office, was someone who actually I had a great deal of respect for among the issues of civil liberties. I work with many on the other side of the aisle because frankly many on the left and some on the right actually we truly do believe in civil liberties and protecting the individual. And I think the president was one of those when he was in the Senate. The president when he ran for office often talked about that America it isn't American to torture people. I agreed with him. He said it isn't American to give up on the right to privacy, to say that you don't need a warrant to tap someone's phone. And I agreed with him. And I respected that about him. But I can't for the life of me understand how he goes from that kind of belief where he believes so much in the constitutional protections to your phone, but he's not willing to stand up for the constitutional protection to your life? It just doesn't make any sense at all. And if he does, why won't he say it? I have my own sort of theory on this, and this applies both to republicans and democrats. My theory is that it's sort of a contagion, sort of an infection that you get when occupying the Oval Office. I'm a good person so more power to me would be a good thing. But Lord Acton said that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. There is a danger when someone has so much power that they think more power and more power and more power, I will do good with that power. The problem is. That even if that is a good person, someday someone occupying that office may not be a good person. Someday you may get someone in the Oval Office who says, what about those people? They look different than us. What about those people? They have different color skin. What about those people? They have a different color ideology that in. What about those people? The danger is, also that we've already defined some of the people who we think might be terrorists.
The Bureau of Justice came out with a list of characteristics and they said, if you see this, report on it. See this, tell someone. They want you to inform on your neighbor so you have to know which one of my neighbors is a terrorist. So they gave you some descriptions of people to be worried about they said people missing fingers. People with colored stains on their clothes. People who have weatherized ammunition, people who have multiple guns, people who like to use cash. You know, if that's the criteria or the criterion for who is a terrorist, you know, I'd be a little bit worried that that -- if you're one of those people, you might have a drone attack you in your bed tonight. This has gone on in more than one place. The fusion centers they developed were supposed to be a liaison between the federal government and the local government. In these fusion centers, for example, in Missouri, they also came up with some characteristics of people who might be terrorists. They actually sent it out as a memo to all the police officers. Could you imagine if you are one of these people, people who are pro-life, people who are for secure borders, people who support third-party candidates, and the big irony of all this - people who belong to the constitution party. So if you believe in the constitution, you might be a terrorist. They say it was a mistake and they eventually apologized and now they don't - try not to have their memos become public, I think. But the point is, if this is what we're getting to, this is the criterion for who is a terrorist, you would think -- you really would think that you'd be worried about giving your president the authority to kill Americans on American soil without any kind of due process. So I find it quite alarming. I think the answer that he could have given is pretty simple. I think there's a possibility even that his answer that he may even agree with some of the things that we're saying here today. But why won't he give it? I think the president, republican and democrat, don't give the answer because they're afraid of constricting their authority at all. They believe in some sort of inherent power that's not listed anywhere. But they think they have got it and they don't want to give up any of it. They jealously guard their power. So they have this power and they don't want to give it up. And so that's why they won't answer us with a straight answer. So you get things that I can -- the only word I can think of is "gobbledygook." You get this craziness that comes from attorneys that makes no sense. So when he was asked what is an imminent threat, these people that we're going to kill with drones have to be an imminent threat. But his attorneys say, well, "Imminent" doesn't have to mean "Immediate." That's the only way they can justify because probably half of these drone attacks are people not engaged in any kind of combat. That's a different debate. You can argue right or wrong whether we should be killing these people not involved in combat because there is evidence they are trying to hurt us and attack us. But it is a pretty low standard. For goodness sakes, could there be any question that in America we're going to accept a standard so low, a standard that basically says that if we think you might someday be engaged in hostilities, we can kill you.