The U.S. Senate has confirmed John Brennan as the new head of the Central Intelligence Agency after one senator threatened to hold up the vote indefinitely over the White House drone policy.
Thursday’s vote was 63 to 34. It came after the Senate held a separate vote to cut off any more debate and and proceed with the confirmation.
Kentucky Republican Rand Paul filibustered against the Brennan confirmation, talking on the Senate floor non-stop for 13 hours. He demanded the Obama administration specify limits on using drone strikes to attack U.S. terror suspects on U.S. soil.
Attorney General Eric Holder sent Paul a brief letter stating that the president does not have the authority to kill a U.S. citizen not engaged in combat on U.S. soil.
Holder said earlier this week that while the president has no intention of ordering a drone strike within the United States, he could do so under an “extraordinary circumstance.”
The Obama administration has used drones to kill terror suspects overseas, including U.S. citizens.
Senators on the intelligence committee demanded to see the top secret legal opinions justifying such attacks before sending Brennan’s nomination to the full Senate.
Brennnan is a long-time CIA official who had been Pendent Obama’s top counterterrorism advisor. He has said he supported the drone policy.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) received a response from the Obama administration on Thursday afternoon after spending 13 hours demanding answers about the possible use of drones inside of the United States.
During a briefing Thursday afternoon, White House press secretary Jay Carney said, “The president has not and would not use drone strikes against American citizens on American soil.”
Mr. Carney also elected to read a statement penned by Attorney General Eric Holder earlier that day that had been sent to Sen. Paul. Mr. Holder’s entire statement, only 43 words, confirmed Mr. Carney’s remark.
“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?’ The answer to that question is no,” wrote the attorney general.
The official response came one day after Sen. Paul stood up on the floor of the Capital Building in Washington and said he would filibuster the nomination hearing for US President Barack Obama’s choice for the next CIA director, John Brennan, until he was presented with answers about the administration’s past and planned use of drones both overseas and domestically. Days earlier, Holder told the senator, “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.” Into the evening and even the Thursday morning, Sen. Paul continued with his presentation, occasionally being joined by members of both sides of the aisle to demand answers about the drone program.
“I will speak until I can no longer speak. I will speak as long as it takes, until the alarm is sounded from coast to coast that our Constitution is important, that your rights to trial by jury are precious, that no American should be killed by a drone on American soil without first being charged with a crime, without first being found to be guilty by a court,” Paul said during part of the roughly 13-hour filibuster.