Attorney General: Obama Can’t Order Drone Attack on Americans on US Soil

Attorney General Eric Holder testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee.C-Span

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It took Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) filibustering for 13 straight hours, but the White House has finally clarified that President Barack Obama cannot order a drone strike on an American citizen on American soil. In a curt, 43-word letter, Attorney General Eric Holder clarified the administration’s stance. 

“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.”

Holder had previously stated in a letter to Paul that he believed it would be appropriate to use deadly military force on American soil in two “catastrophic” scenarios—namely another Pearl Harbor or 9/11.

“Nobody questions if planes are flying towards the Twin Towers whether they can be repulsed by the military,” Paul said during his filibuster Wednesday. “Nobody questions whether a terrorist with a rocket launcher or a grenade launcher is attacking us, whether they can be repelled.”

Paul had also asked during his filibuster whether an Arab American “sitting in a cafeteria in Dearborn, Michigan,” and suspected of ties to terror could be targeted with lethal force by a drone. “As for Paul and Holder, I suspect they’re in complete agreement on the ‘café’ hypothetical—but who isn’t?” says Steve Vladeck, a professor at American University School of Law. “This isn’t about cafés—it’s about dirt roads in northern Yemen.”

Here’s Holder’s letter:

 

Dear Reader,

This feels like the most important fundraising drive since I've been CEO of Mother Jones, with staggeringly high stakes and so much uncertainty. In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," I try to unpack the reality we all face and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support Mother Jones’ nonprofit journalism: We need to raise $400,000 to help cover the vital reporting projects we have planned, and right now is no time to pull back.

Monika Bauerlein, CEO, Mother Jones

Dear Reader,

This feels like the most important fundraising drive since I've been CEO of Mother Jones, with staggeringly high stakes and so much uncertainty. In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," I try to unpack the reality we all face and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support Mother Jones’ nonprofit journalism: We need to raise $400,000 to help cover the vital reporting projects we have planned, and right now is no time to pull back.

Monika Bauerlein, CEO, Mother Jones

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