Mr. President, I rise to speak in opposition to the nomination of John Brennan for CIA Director. This Administration hasn’t been forthcoming in answering a vitally important question of whether or not Americans could be killed by a drone on American soil without first being charged with a crime or being found guilty in a court of law. This should have been a very simple answer. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney stated today that the Administration does not have the authority to kill Americans on American soil. That’s great news, however, it shouldn’t have taken a United States Senator 12 hours of non-stop-talking for the Administration to acknowledge the simple fact that it cannot kill American citizens on American soil without a trial.
I would like to applaud Senator Rand Paul’s courage and conviction last night as he stood on the Senate floor for nearly 13 hours defending our rights under the Constitution. Senator Paul deserves recognition for standing up for the American people and bringing this issue to light. And it’s an issue that I and many of my constituents in the State of Wyoming find very troubling.
In fact, as I traveled around Wyoming several weeks ago, it become abundantly clear that people are very concerned over this Administration’s disregard for constitutionally guaranteed individual rights.
Drones – unmanned aerial vehicles - have been made famous by their use in our war on terrorism. For a number of years these weapons have served in operations in Iraq and Afghanistan with success. However, the use of drones for both military and civilian purposes abroad and domestically is increasing.
According to the Congressional Research Service the Federal Aviation Administration predicts that 30,000 drones will fill the skies in less than 20 years. Although many of these uses will likely be for civilian purposes – disaster relief, border control, crime fighting, and agricultural crop monitoring – the use of drones raises new privacy and civil liberties questions for U.S. citizens.
The first concern raised by the use of drones is how it may impact our Fourth Amendment rights. U.S. citizens have the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. Drones push the limits of what could be considered reasonable. Courts generally recognize that U.S. citizens have substantial protections against warrantless government intrusions into the home and that the Fourth Amendment offers less robust restrictions in public places. However, drones begin raising the question of what is reasonable when it comes to the expectation of privacy in one’s driveway or even backyard.
In his speech last night, Senator Paul reiterated additional Constitutional concerns that he has been seeking an answer on for a number of weeks. The Administration just now responded but it raises the concern about the willingness of the White House to act transparently when it comes to important matters of national security and Constitutional liberties. We should all be asking ourselves why it took a United States Senator 12 hours of non-stop-talking for the Department of Justice to acknowledge the simple fact that it cannot kill American citizens on American soil without a trial.
Senator Paul asked a straightforward question and deserved a straightforward answer in a timely manner. His question hit right to the heart of our Fifth Amendment rights as U.S. citizens. Particularly, “No person shall….be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law.”
The response that Senator Paul got back was everything short of a straightforward answer. This Administration did not rule out the possibility of using drones against Americans on U.S. soil. This is particularly problematic because our Constitution does not say that the Fifth Amendment applies when the President or Attorney General thinks it applies.
There was no reason why it should have taken so long for the Administration to acknowledge that they didn’t have the authority to kill an American on U.S. soil without due process of law – specifically to deny someone the right to a judge, a jury and trial. The Fifth Amendment was written with this particular form of government abuse in mind and it was more than appropriate for Congress to ask this question in its oversight role.
We know and our legal system recognizes that you don’t get due process when you are actively attacking our soldiers or our government. However, that wasn’t the question Senator Paul posed. Congress needed clarification from the Administration on this nomination. In order to build faith and confidence in our nation’s military and intelligence community we also need transparency and responsiveness in the questions raised by Congress.
I will not be supporting John Brennan’s nomination because of the lack of transparency and timeliness on this important matter.
Mr. President, I yield the floor.