Search Form
First, enter a politician or zip code
Now, choose a category

Public Statements

Brennan Nomination

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. CRUZ. Would the Senator from Kentucky yield for a question?

Mr. PAUL. I will not yield the floor, but I will acknowledge a question to the Chair.

Mr. CRUZ. I wish to ask the Senator's reaction to the testimony Attorney General Eric Holder gave the Senator this morning in the Senate Judiciary Committee. I wish to describe that testimony for the Senate and ask the Senator's reaction to that testimony.

I would begin by saying that Senator after Senator on the Judiciary Committee invoked the leadership of the Senator from Kentucky on the issue of drones and asked Attorney General Holder about the standards for drone strikes in the United States. Indeed, although the Senator does not serve on the Judiciary Committee, it was as if he were serving in absentia, because the Attorney General was forced over and over again to respond.

I would note the Senator's standing here today, like a modern ``Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,'' must surely be making Jimmy Stewart smile. My only regret is there are not 99 of our colleagues here today standing with the Senator in defense of the most fundamental principle in our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution; namely, each of us is endowed with certain unalienable rights by our Creator and that first among them is life, the right to life, and the right not to have life arbitrarily extinguished by our government without due process of law.

At the hearing this morning, Attorney General Holder was asked about the letter he sent the Senator in which the Senator asked him whether the U.S. Government could use a drone strike to kill a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil. As the Senator knows, Attorney General Holder responded in writing he could imagine a circumstance where that would be permissible. The two examples he gave were: No. 1, Pearl Harbor; and No. 2, the tragic attacks on this country on September 11, 2001. In the course of the hearing, Attorney General Holder was asked for more specifics. In particular, both of those were military strikes on our country with imminent and, indeed, grievous loss of life that flowed from it. Few, if any, disagree that the U.S. Government may act swiftly to prevent a military attack which would mean immediate loss of life. The question Attorney General Holder was asked three different times was whether the U.S. Government could take a U.S. citizen, who was suspected of being a terrorist, on U.S. soil, who was not engaged in any imminent threat to life or bodily harm, simply sitting at a cafe--could the U.S. Government use a drone strike to kill that U.S. citizen on U.S. soil.

Three times when asked that direct question, Attorney General Holder responded that in his judgment that was not ``appropriate.''

The first question--and if I may, I wish to ask a series of questions--does it surprise the Senator the Attorney General would speak in vague, amorphous terms of appropriateness and prosecutorial discretion rather than the bright lines of what the Constitution protects, namely, the right of every American to have our life protected by the Constitution?

Mr. PAUL. Mr. President, I am quite surprised, although I guess I shouldn't be, that we don't get direct responses. It is a pretty direct question. It is the question I have been asking all morning. It is the question I have been asking for a month and a half. I am talking about situations where you have a noncombatant, someone not posing an imminent threat, who they think make may someday pose an imminent threat because that is what we are doing overseas. If that is the standard overseas, I am asking is that going to be the standard here? It amazes me.

Part of the reason we are here today in the midst of a filibuster is because they won't answer the question directly. I applaud the attempts to try to get a more specific question. I am not terribly surprised we have had trouble getting a direct answer.

Mr. CRUZ. Would the Senator yield for additional questions?

Mr. PAUL. As long as I do not yield the floor.

Mr. CRUZ. After three times declining to answer a direct question, would killing a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil with a drone strike when that U.S. citizen did not present an imminent threat, would that be constitutional--after three times of simply saying it would not be appropriate, finally, the fourth time Attorney General Holder responded to vigorous questioning--in particular during the course of the questioning, the point was made that Attorney General Holder is not an advice columnist giving advice on etiquette and appropriateness. The Attorney General is the chief legal officer of the United States. I will note I observed it was more than a little astonishing the chief legal officer of the United States could not give a simple one-word, one-syllable, two-letter answer to the question: Does the Constitution allow the Federal Government to kill with a drone strike a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil who is not posing an immediate threat? The proper answer I suggested at that hearing should be no. That should be a very easy answer for the Attorney General to give.

Finally, the fourth time around, Attorney General Holder stated: Let me be clear. Translate my appropriate to no. I thought I was saying no. All right? No. Finally, after three times refusing to answer the question whether it would be constitutional to do so, the fourth time the Attorney General answered.

The question I want to ask is the Senator's reaction to this exchange. In particular when Attorney General Holder on the fourth time finally stated his opinion--and I assume the opinion of the Department of Justice--that it is unconstitutional for the Federal Government to kill a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil who does not pose an imminent threat, when he stated that, my response was I wish he had simply said so in his letter to the Senator at the beginning. I wish John Brennan in his questioning the Senator provided had said so in the beginning.

Indeed I then said: The Senator from Kentucky and I are going to introduce legislation in this body to make clear that the U.S. Government may not kill a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil if that individual does not pose an imminent threat of death or grievous bodily harm. I observed that if the Attorney General's view was that it was unconstitutional for the U.S. Government to do so, then I assumed he would be supporting that legislation.

I would welcome the Senator's reaction to that exchange.

Mr. PAUL. Well, Mr. President, the response is a little bit troubling; that it took so much work and so much effort of cross-examination to finally get an answer.

I will note, in his final answer, I don't ever see the words ``constitutional'' or ``unconstitutional.'' He is responding to Senator Cruz's word of ``constitutional'' when he says: Let it be clear and translate my ``appropriate'' to ``no.'' I thought I was saying no. All right. No.

Well, words do make a difference, and I would feel a little more comfortable if we would get in writing a letter that says he doesn't believe killing people not actively engaged in combat with drones in America, on American soil, is constitutional. That sure would have short-circuited and saved quite a bit of time.

I will say, though, that I will believe a little more of the sincerity of the President and of the Attorney General if we get a public endorsement of the bill that says drones can't be used except under imminent threat, and define that as an imminent threat where you actually have a lethal attack underway. If we could get to that, I think this is something that both parties ought to be able to unite by. It is such a basic principle, I can't imagine we couldn't unite by this. And it would have gone a long way to getting these answers.

But what still disappoints me about the whole thing is that it takes so much work to get people to say they are going to obey the law. It takes so much work to get the administration to admit they will adhere to the Constitution. This should be a much simpler process.

I commend the Senator from Texas for not letting go and for trying to get this information. I would welcome any more comments that he has.

Mr. CRUZ. If the Senator would yield for one final question, is the Senator from Kentucky aware of any precedent whatsoever--any Supreme Court case, any lower court case, the decision of any President of the United States, beginning with George Washington up to the present, the stated views of any Member of this Senate, beginning with the very first Congress up to the present--for the proposition that this administration seems willing to embrace, or at least unwilling to renounce explicitly and emphatically, that the Constitution somehow permits, or at least does not foreclose on, the U.S. Government killing a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil who is not flying a plane into a building, who is not robbing a bank, who is not pointing a bazooka at the Pentagon, but who is simply sitting quietly at a cafe, peaceably enjoying breakfast?

Is the Senator from Kentucky aware of any precedent whatsoever for what I consider to be the remarkable proposition that the U.S. Government, without indicting him, without bringing him before a jury, without any due process whatsoever could simply send a drone to kill that U.S. citizen on U.S. soil?

Mr. PAUL. Mr. President, I am aware of no legal precedent for taking the life of an American without the fifth amendment or due process. What is troubling, though, is that Attorney General Eric Holder is on record as actually arguing that the fifth amendment right to due process is to be determined and is to be applicable when determined solely by the executive branch.

I would appreciate the comments and opinions of the Senator from Texas on the idea that the executive branch gets to determine when the Bill of Rights applies.

Mr. CRUZ. If I may give my views on that question and then ask for the Senator's response to my views on whether the executive may determine its own limitations, I would suggest the genesis of our constitution is found in the notion that the President is not a king, that we are not ruled by a monarchy, and that no man or woman is above the law. Accordingly, no man or woman may determine the applicability of the law to himself or herself.

For that reason, the Framers of our Constitution won not one but two revolutions. The first revolution they won was a bloody battle for our independence from King George, and a great many of them gave the ultimate sacrifice so that we might enjoy the freedom we do today. But the far more important war they won was the war of ideas, where for millennia men and women had been told that rights come from kings and queens and are given by grace, to be taken away at the whim of the monarch. What our Framers concluded, instead, is that our rights don't come from any king or queen or president; they come from God Almighty, and sovereignty does not originate from the monarch or the president, it originates from we the people.

Accordingly, the Constitution served, as Thomas Jefferson put it, as chains to bind the mischief of government. And I would suggest that anytime power is arrogated in one place--in the Executive--that liberty is threatened. And that should be a view that receives support not just from Republicans, not just from Democrats or Independents or Libertarians, that should be a view that receives support from everybody; that none of us should want to live in a country where the President or the Executive asserts the authority to take the life of a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil without due process of law and absent any imminent threat of harm.

I would suggest the idea that we should simply trust the Attorney General, trust the Director of the CIA, or trust the President to exercise an astonishing power to take the life of any U.S. citizen, in my judgment, is fundamentally inconsistent with the Bill of Rights. And I would, therefore, ask the Senator from Kentucky for his reaction and whether he shares my understanding that our rights are protected not at the whim or grace of the Executive, but they are protected by the Constitution and, ultimately, they are rights that each of us was given by our Creator, and we are obliged to protect the natural rights to life, liberty, and property that every man and woman in America enjoys?

Mr. PAUL. Well, Mr. President, this is what makes this debate so important. This debate is about the fundamental rights that we--most of us, or many of us--believe derive from our Creator and that it is important we not give up on these; that we not allow a majority vote or one branch of government to say we have now decided you don't get all these rights anymore.

Our Founders really wanted to make it difficult to change things, to take away our rights. So this is an important battle and one in which I think we should engage because the President needs to be more forthcoming. The President needs to let us know what his plans are, if he is going to overrule the fifth amendment and if the Attorney General is going to decide when the fifth amendment applies. That is a pretty important distinction and change from the history of our country.

Mr. President, at this time I would like to ask for any comments, without yielding the floor, from the Senator from Utah.

Mr. LEE. In response to Senator Paul's question, I would like to add to the Senator's remarks and those of the junior Senator from Texas the fact that in the concluding paragraph of the Department of Justice white paper on this issue, the Department concludes as follows:

In sum, an operation in the circumstances and under the constraints described above would not result in a violation of any due process rights.

It is a rather interesting conclusion, in light of the fact that two out of the three analytical points outlined above in the memorandum, in the white paper are themselves so broad as to be arguably meaningless or, at a minimum, capable of being interpreted in such a way as to subject American citizens to the arbitrary deprivation of their own right to live.

First, as I mentioned earlier, by proposing an imminent standard that leaves out anything imminent--in other words, it is not just peanut butter without the jelly; it is peanut butter without the peanut butter. There is no ``there'' there--they define out of existence the very imminent standard they purport to create and follow. That is not due process. It is the opposite of due process.

Secondly, they outline a set of circumstances in which this attack may occur, where capture is infeasible, and then they define an understanding of feasibility that is so broad as to render it virtually meaningless.

So at the conclusion of the memo--and the memo says:

In sum, an operation in the circumstances and under the constraints described above would not result in a violation of any due process rights.

It is describing constraints that are not really constraints, and that is a problem. That amounts to a deprivation of due process.

In light of these circumstances, I think it really is imperative the American people, or those who serve in this body--at a minimum, those who serve on the Senate Judiciary Committee--be given an opportunity to review the wholesale legal analyses identified by the Attorney General today that have been prepared by the Office of Legal Counsel of the Department of Justice. This is the chief advisory body within the U.S. Department of Justice. It is the job of the fine lawyers in the Office of Legal Counsel to render this advice, and we ought to have the benefit of that. At a minimum, we ought to have the benefit of that within the Senate Judiciary Committee.

So when I asked the Attorney General this morning whether he would make those available, I was surprised and a little frustrated when he declined to offer them immediately. He said he would check in with those he needed to consult with. I reminded him he is the Attorney General, and he does, in fact, supervise those who work in the Department of Justice.

I hope that is satisfactory and in response to the Senator's question.

Mr. PAUL. Yes, I agree with the comments of the Senator from Utah.

The whole problem is that if the President says my plan has due process, that would be sort of like me saying I have passed my law, and I think it is constitutional. Well, the same branch of government doesn't get to judge whether it is constitutional. That is the whole idea of the checks and balances.

We pass a law in the Senate and the Supreme Court can rule on whether it is constitutional. So the President gets to decide that he is going to abrogate the fifth amendment or abbreviate the fifth amendment or do certain things, and then he says: Oh, I am really not because the way I interpret it, I am applying the fifth amendment to my process.

Well, he can't do that. He can't be judge, jury, executioner, and Supreme Court all rolled into one. That is an arrogation of power we cannot allow.

Mr. President, at this time I would like to entertain comments or a question from the Senator from Kansas without yielding the floor, if I may.

Mr. MORAN. Mr. President, I thank the Senator from Kentucky, and I would like to ask a series of questions.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Kansas.

Mr. MORAN. First, let me outline a thought I had in listening to this conversation and ask the Senator a question about it.

We have seen the actions of our President to be determined unconstitutional in a recent case in the court of appeals in the District of Columbia--a case in which the President made the determination he could determine the definition of a recess in the Senate--and so we now have a court that has declared the President's conclusion in that regard to be unconstitutional.

I don't know that we want to get into the magnitude or evaluating what constitutional violations are most damaging to the American people or to our rights and liberties, but I would ask the Senator to compare the consequences of the President being wrong once again in regard to the constitutionality of utilizing a drone strike to end the life of an American citizen. Again, I am suggesting that we have seen precedent where the President acts unconstitutionally. Fortunately, the legal process is there to make certain a determination is made as to the constitutionality of that act.

In this case, what would be the consequences of a drone strike as compared to whether an appointment to an administrative body under the recess clause is constitutional?

Mr. PAUL. Mr. President, I think the analogy is apt. The difference is a recess appointment you get to make your appeal to a court while still living, which makes a big difference. In the case of the recess appointments, the President decided he could determine when the legislative branch was in session or out of session. So you have the same sort of conflict again.

The President has a sphere and we have a sphere, but now he is saying he controls our sphere also; that he can tell us when we are in session or out of session, and he can basically do what he wishes. The Supreme Court rebuked him pretty sternly.

So I agree with the Senator from Kansas. There is a great deal of similarity between the two because it is, once again, the executive branch or the President acting as if the checks and balances between the Legislative and the executive branches don't exist; that he basically made the decision for us that he has decided we are in recess.

But the Senator is correct, the Supreme Court gave him a pretty stern rebuke and said that would be unconstitutional.

Mr. MORAN. Mr. President, to the Senator from Kentucky, what is the logical extension of a decision that it is constitutional to utilize a drone by our military to strike at the life of an American citizen in the United States?

And I would say, if the Senator would agree with me, most Americans would find it repulsive, unconstitutional, and a terrible violation of public duty if a military officer on the streets of Wichita, KS, pulled a gun and shot an American citizen.

Really, is that not the logical extension of the idea that a drone strike from above results in the death of a U.S. citizen without due process? Is that any different than the ability to kill somebody in any other manner that I think most Americans would recognize today as prohibited without due process of law by our Constitution?

Mr. PAUL. Mr. President, the analogy that the Senator from Kansas brings up I think is appropriate.

We have had rules on the books since the Civil War saying the military doesn't act in our country. So it is not just a drone; it is any sort of law enforcement in the United States. We recognize that.

We respect our soldiers. We are proud of our soldiers. But we have limited their sphere to the sphere of war. Within the United States, for our security we have the police and we have the FBI. It is because the rules of engagement are different. It is different being a soldier. It is a tough job being a soldier. But it is just not the same on the streets of Wichita or the streets of Bowling Green, KY. So we have different rules and we have made it different.

But the Senator is right. I think people would understand that it would be wrong for a military officer to shoot someone on the streets in America. It is prohibited for a good reason; not because our soldiers are bad people, but it is because there are different rules for soldiers. That is what is most troubling about many of these people who say, oh, Wichita is the battlefield. And if it is the battlefield, they don't understand why the military can't act in Wichita or Houston or Bowling Green, KY. So it does delve into the problem that we have to debate: Is there a limitation to where the battlefield is?

If the Senator has another question, I would yield for a question without yielding the floor.

Mr. MORAN. Mr. President, I have an additional question, and I believe it is my final question.

I would ask the Senator from Kentucky, through the President--we are here at this point in time in the juncture of the Senate with the issue of whether to confirm a particular individual to a particular office, an administrative appointment. I would ask the Senator if he doesn't believe the issue of the due process rights of American citizens is of such a magnitude that the real issue that ought to be before the Senate is not the confirmation of an individual, but we ought to resolve the issue of whether the Senate believes it is constitutional for the due process rights of an American citizen to be taken by a drone strike in the United States, and the opportunity now presents itself that it would be a reason not to grant cloture.

Let me ask it as a question. Would it not be a reason to grant cloture on this nomination until we resolve this issue?

Mr. PAUL. Mr. President, I think it is very reasonable. It is more important than just the nomination of one individual.

When we are talking about whether the Bill of Rights is going to be changed, when we are talking about whether you will have the due process to be tried in a court, or whether you could be killed--summarily executed without a trial--that is an important change in the history of our country.

The Senator's response also made me think of something else. Another way to resolve this, where we could conclude this debate and get on to the nomination, would be for the majority party to come forward with a resolution that says: You know what. We are not going to kill noncombatants in America with drone strikes; we are not going to use the military; we are going to reaffirm the law.

So there is a resolution that both parties could come forward--and it would be a wonderful resolution to this process to say: The Senate goes on record in a bipartisan fashion as saying we are not going to overturn the fifth amendment. If you are an American and you live in America, you will not be killed without being accused of a crime, tried by a jury, and convicted by a jury. I think that would be a reasonable resolution to this, and I would entertain it if the other side were interested.

Mr. MORAN. I thank the Senator from Kentucky for responding to my questions.

Mr. CRUZ. Mr. President, would the Senator from Kentucky yield for a question?

Mr. PAUL. Mr. President, without relinquishing the floor, I yield to the Senator from Texas for a question.

Mr. CRUZ. Mr. President, I ask the Senator his reaction as to the possible justification for the administration's repeated reluctance to answer what should be a very straightforward question.

I find myself genuinely puzzled that both Mr. Brennan and Attorney General Holder, when asked whether the U.S. Government may kill a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil with a drone strike, absent an imminent threat of harm to life or grievous bodily injury--I find it quite puzzling that both of them did not simply respond: Of course not. Of course we can't. We never have in the history of this country, and we never will. The Constitution forbids it.

In my understanding of the Constitution, that was not a difficult question the Senator asked, and I find it quite remarkable that they treated it as a difficult question.

To be clear, there is no dispute--at least no serious dispute--that if an individual poses an imminent threat of harm--if an individual is robbing a bank, there is no dispute that law enforcement, a SWAT team, can use deadly force to prevent the imminent threat to life or limb.

What this issue is about is an individual who is not posing an imminent threat--a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil--and the administration's continued reluctance to say: The Constitution forbids killing that U.S. citizen without due process of law.

So what I want to ask the Senator about is efficacy.

Let's take a hypothetical individual whom the U.S. Government believes to be a terrorist, who is sitting at a cafe enjoying a cup of coffee, not posing an imminent threat to anybody. The question I would like to ask about efficacy--and if I might, I would like to ask a couple of questions.

No. 1, if it turns out the intelligence is incorrect, that this individual the U.S. Government suspects of being a terrorist is not in fact a terrorist, that they have the wrong guy; and if a drone strike is used and that individual is killed, is there an effective remedy to correct that tragic mistake?

Mr. PAUL. Mr. President, I think the question is well put.

The first aspect of the question is, What is the President thinking? Why would the President not respond to us? Why would the President not answer a pretty easy question and say that noncombatants in the United States will not be killed with drones?

I think the reason is complicated--and it is conjecture because I can't get in his mind. But I would say it is sort of a contagion or an infection that affects Republicans and Democrats when they get into the White House. They see the power the Presidency has. It is enormous. They see themselves as good people, and they say: I can't give up any power because I am going to do good with that power.

The problem they don't see is that the power itself is intoxicating, and the power someday may be in the hands of someone else who is less inclined to use it in a good way. I think that is why the power grows and grows, because everybody believes themselves to be doing the right thing.

With regard to exactly what would happen in the situation when there is not an imminent threat, it boggles the mind when we can't answer that question. And I don't have a good understanding as to why exactly we can't get a response.

I would yield for a response from the Senator from Texas.

Mr. CRUZ. Mr. President, if I could ask the second question, in the instance where the intelligence was wrong and a U.S. citizen was killed by his or her government without due process of law, there obviously would be no remedy. But I would ask about the alternate scenario.

If it were the case that this individual was in fact a terrorist, was involved in a plot to threaten the lives and threaten the safety of other Americans; if this U.S. citizen sitting in a cafe is killed with a drone strike--focusing on efficacy--once he is killed, am I correct that you can't interrogate him further; you can't find out who else was in the terrorist plot with him; you can't find out what methods he had put in place; you can't find out if there is an imminent threat planned that he may know about? But if a drone from the sky simply kills him, that knowledge perishes with him at that cafe and so undermines the legitimate efforts of our government to protect the safety and security of all Americans.

Mr. PAUL. Mr. President, I think it is an excellent question and really gets to the root of the whole problem we are talking about because we are talking about people who may not all be good people. They may be bad people and they may be plotting to do something bad to America, and they may be in a cafe. So there may be all kinds of reasons to arrest and punish them, but there may be all kinds of reasons to try to get more information from them. Particularly if they are not involved in combat, it is hard to imagine why you would want to kill them. If they are not involved in combat, why not capture them and try to get some useful information out of them?

So it is a little bit difficult to understand why the President wouldn't say what is obvious: Why would we want to kill noncombatants in America?

The reason we keep asking the question is, of the drone strikes overseas--which we are not privy to all of the details because some of it is classified. But the details that have been in the press are that a lot of these people being killed overseas are not in combat.

So the real question is, If you are going to take this drone strike overseas and it has no geographic limitations, and you are bringing it home to America, does the President not think it is incumbent upon him to say: Well, yes, we are bringing it home, but we are not going to kill noncombatants?

What an important question. I think the Senator has phrased it appropriately and I would anticipate or respect any other response he would like to give.

Mr. CRUZ. One final question for the Senator from Kentucky.

I am aware the Senator from Kentucky is originally from the great State of Texas. As the Senator is no doubt aware, today is the 177th anniversary of the fall of the Alamo.

One hundred eighty-two men were stationed at the Alamo, and after 13 days of a bitter siege, fighting an army of thousands, those patriots gave their lives for freedom. They put everything on the line to stand against tyranny and to stand for the fundamental right of every man and woman to breathe freely, to control our own lives, our own autonomy, to make decisions about what our future would be.

If I may presume to speak on behalf of 26 million Texans, I would say I have no doubt that Texans are proud to see the distinguished Senator from Kentucky, as a native-born Texan, fighting so valiantly for liberty and serving as such a clarion voice for liberty at a time when sometimes liberty has few champions.

Indeed, I would suggest if those brave patriots of the Alamo were here, William Barrett Travis and Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie and each of the others who gave their lives for freedom, they would be standing side by side with the Senator and would be proud to call him brother.

Mr. PAUL. Mr. President, I would like to say that I appreciate the remarks of the Senator from Texas. If the filibuster goes on long enough, we would like to hear a recitation of William Barrett Travis's last words at the Alamo. We had to memorize that as a kid, and I am afraid my memory has gone a little dusty. But the Senator is younger and may remember that for us.

The issue at hand is an issue that goes beyond party politics. It goes beyond nominations. It goes beyond the President is a Democrat and I am a Republican. I voted for three of the President's nominations, much to the chagrin and much to the criticism of some on my side.

But I have done so because I think the President does have some prerogatives--that is just my personal viewpoint--on choosing appointees. This is a political appointee, but I do not consider this debate to be about the appointee. I think this debate is more about a constitutional issue, and I think it rises to a level above the individual and it is something to which we need to draw attention and about which we need to have a good healthy discussion in our country.

I don't think it has to be a bitter partisan battle. I have met the President personally. I have flown on Air Force One with him. I respect him, I respect the office. I think he and I could have a reasonable conversation on this issue. In fact, I think if he were here today, he might actually agree with much of what I am saying. What I am disappointed in--and I do not know if it is the muddle of a large government and not getting a message forward, but what I am disappointed in is that it is so hard to get him to agree with what I think he should already and probably already agrees with. But when we are talking about doing something so different, when we are talking about changing the way we adjudicate guilt, changing the way we decide someone's life or death, it is too important to just say: Oh, Mr. President, go ahead and do it. As long as you tell me you have no intent of breaking the law or no intent to kill Americans, that is enough.

It just simply is not enough. It is not enough to say: I have not done it yet. I do not intend to kill anybody, but I might.

He came up with some circumstances where he might use the drone strikes in America. Then, in the cross-examination of Senator Cruz in the committee, we have gotten him to admit--under duress, I think, but to admit that they are not talking about people in a cafe.

Some might say he has never mentioned people in a cafe. The reason it
comes up, of people not involved in combat, is that a lot of the people who have been the victims or have been killed by these drone strikes were not involved in combat when they were killed. They were riding in cars, walking down the street, traveling in caravans. I am not saying they are good people. I am just saying, regarding the standard for whom we kill overseas, we have to ask the question, and I don't think we are doing our job if we do not ask the President: Are you going to use the same criteria for how you kill people overseas? Is that the same criteria over here?

And it should not be: I will tell you later. It shouldn't be, I don't intend to do it and I probably won't, but I might.

That is just not enough.

We are talking about basic protections that we fought our Revolution over and really, in a way, when I see the wars that we have gone to--and not every war has been perfectly justified or that we should have, but when our soldiers fight, I see them fighting for the Bill of Rights, and I think they say that too. No matter where they are around the world, I see them fighting for the Bill of Rights and our Constitution. But if we are giving that up, if we are not going to adhere to the fifth amendment, it takes the wind out of the sails.

Can you imagine being a soldier in Afghanistan or Iraq or in far-flung places around the world and you are told you were fighting for the Bill of Rights minus the fifth amendment? Or when we say we are going to indefinitely detain people, we are going to fight for the Bill of Rights minus the sixth amendment? It is pretty important. These things are what we are fighting for, so we really should at least have a robust debate over the magnitude of these changes, over how these will be set up, over exactly what will happen, how this process is going to work. I am just saying that ``I am not intending to do so'' is not enough.

Mr. President, I, without yielding the floor, would like to allow a question from the Senator from Texas.

Mr. CRUZ. If the Senator from Kentucky would allow this question, I would like to respond to his very gracious invitation and ask if the following letter gives the Senator from Kentucky encouragement and sustenance as he stands and fights for liberty? This letter was written February 24, 1836, and it begins as follows:

To the People of Texas and All Americans in the World:

Fellow citizens and compatriots;

I am besieged, by a thousand or more of the Mexicans under Santa Anna. I have sustained a continual Bombardment and cannonade for 24 hours and have not lost a man. The enemy has demanded a surrender at discretion, otherwise, the garrison are to be put to the sword, if the fort is taken. I have answered the demand with a cannon shot, and our flag still waves proudly from the walls. I shall never surrender or retreat. Then, I call on you in the name of Liberty, of patriotism & everything dear to the American character, to come to our aid, with all dispatch. The enemy is receiving reinforcements daily and will no doubt increase to three or four thousand in four or five days. If this call is neglected, I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible and die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor & that of his country. Victory or Death.

William Barret Travis

My question is, Does that glorious letter give you encouragement and sustenance on this 177th anniversary of the Alamo?

Mr. PAUL. Mr. President, I think what Travis's letter at the Alamo talks about is that there are things bigger than the individual. At the time he wrote that, I don't think they had much hope of surviving, and he died at the Alamo, as well as other volunteers, some from my State of Kentucky. But there was an issue bigger to them at the time, that they saw as bigger than the issue of the individual. I think that is what this debate is about.

This is not really about the person of John Brennan. This really is not about the person of Barack Obama. This is about the body of the Constitution, it is about our respect for it, and it is about whether we will hold these principles so dear and we will hold these principles so high that we are willing to try to enjoin a debate, to try to get both sides to talk about this and to try to admit it, because we don't want innocent people to be killed in America. We want to have the process that has protected our freedoms for a couple of hundred years now to remain in place, and we are unwilling to diminish that simply because of fear.

FDR said, ``There is nothing to fear but fear itself.'' I think we should also say that we should not let fear be so great that we allow the loss of our freedoms. I think that is where we are, that sometimes terrorists are everywhere and they are trying to attack us, but we need to remember that it is our freedom that is precious, and we need to try to do everything we can to uphold that.

At this time, I would entertain a question, without yielding the floor, from the Senator from Oregon.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT


Source:
Skip to top
Back to top