UPDATE 12:54 p.m.: In a new letter to Sen. Rand Paul, Attorney General Eric Holder responds to the question of whether the president has the authority to order a drone strike on a non-combatant U.S. citizen on American soil: "The answer to that question is no." Good to know.
Original post: What started as mid-day entertainment for C-SPAN junkies turned into national political news yesterday, as Sen. Rand Paul staged an old-school talking filibuster on the floor of the U.S. Senate. He spoke for something like 13 hours, raising questions about the U.S. drone program, and demanding that the Obama administration state clearly whether it believes it can use drones to kill non-combatant U.S. citizens on American soil (a question that, shockingly, the White House has been somewhat vague on). It all ended late last night, when Paul finally succumbed to the demands of his bladder.
But as Paul, uh, droned on (I'll let myself out), and several other senators (14 Republicans and one Democrat) appeared occasionally to help him out, Tennesseans watching and tweeting the spectacle began to wonder: Where were Tennessee Senators Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander?
I reached out to both offices with a few questions: Did the senators support Paul's effort? Did they share his concerns about domestic drone use, and did they support his insistence that the White House clarify its position on the matter? Did they believe the government could order drone strikes on non-combatant U.S. citizens, without due process, on American soil?
This morning, we received emailed statements from both senators, through spokesmen.
“Congress has long abdicated its legitimate and constitutionally-mandated role in authorizing the use of military force. It is critical that Congress regularly and carefully look at the way the executive branch employs the use of force. In particular, I have serious concerns regarding our current drone policy, and I intend to seek answers to my questions in hearings before the Foreign Relations Committee, which has jurisdiction over the executive branch's use of its war-making authority. I believe our committee should play a decisive role in examining these questions, and I intend to work with the chairman and other interested committee members to work on these matters.”
And from Alexander:
“It is against the law for the CIA to conduct lethal operations inside the United States. The American government must continue to follow the law. I don’t think it’s unusual for the FBI or the U.S. Department of Justice to be ambiguous about what they might do in the event of a terrorist attack, but the government may only act within the parameters established by the Constitution.”
Below, a recap of Paul's marathon filibuster by way of ABC News: