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Public Statements

Brennan Nomination

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, yesterday the junior the Senator from Kentucky took to the Senate floor to exercise his rights as an individual Senator in pursuit of an answer from the Attorney General concerning the rights of U.S. citizens.

The filibuster was extended, heartfelt, and important, and I wish to say a few words in reaction to that effort and, as well, on the nomination of John Brennan to be Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

The question he raised was entirely appropriate and should have already been answered by the Obama administration.

First, I wish to state for the Record and to correct any misimpression that yesterday's long debate was a criticism of the Senate's oversight of our Nation's intelligence activities. In fact, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is responsible for conducting vigorous oversight of our Nation's intelligence activities, and I want to make clear that they were not the subject of last night's debate. The members of that committee conduct that oversight in a professional, responsible manner, and selflessly serve the rest of the Senate in that capacity.

Let me assure the Senate, the activities of the intelligence community are closely monitored and overseen by the Intelligence Committee, to include all counterterrorism activities.

Most recently, the committee has conducted a serious and much-needed inquiry into the terrorist attack on the temporary mission facility in Benghazi, Libya, and has conducted a thorough review of John Brennan's nomination to be Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Thanks to the leadership of Chairman Feinstein and Vice Chairman Chambliss, the committee has made significant progress in reviewing Mr. Brennan's record, the intelligence related to the terrorist threat in Libya, and in reviewing the administration's legal opinions concerning some overseas activities.

Second, in reviewing Mr. Brennan's nomination, Senator Paul has asked a series of questions of the executive branch. Senator Paul has a right to ask questions of the administration, and the administration has a responsibility to answer in keeping with the rules established for oversight of intelligence activities and for protecting sensitive information.

The specific question, however, is not an intelligence-related question but a straightforward legal question: Does the President have the authority to order the use of lethal force against a U.S. citizen who is not a combatant on U.S. soil without due process of law?

To his credit, John Brennan directly answered the question motivating Senator Paul's filibuster: The Central Intelligence Agency does not conduct lethal operations inside the United States, nor does it have the authority to do so. What is befuddling is why the Attorney General has not directly and clearly answered the question.

The U.S. military no more has the right to kill a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil who is not a combatant with an armed unmanned aerial vehicle than it does with an M-16. The technology is beside the point. It simply doesn't have that right, and the administration should simply answer the question. There is no reason we cannot get this question answered today. And we should get the question answered today. Frankly, it should have been answered a long time ago.

Last, during Senator Paul's filibuster, I noted that I cannot support John Brennan's confirmation. During January of 2009, the President issued a series of Executive orders which, in my judgment, weakened the ability of our intelligence community to find, capture, detain, and interrogate terrorists.

As President Obama's senior adviser on counterterrorism, Mr. Brennan has been a fierce defender of the administration's approach to counterterrorism as articulated by the Executive orders I just referred to. He has been a loyal, dogged defender of the administration's policies, policies with which I seriously disagree. My greatest concern is that the Director of Central Intelligence must be entirely independent of partisan politics in developing objective analysis and advice that he gives to the President. After 4 years of working within the White House, confronting difficult policy matters on a daily basis, and having attempted to defend the administration's policies--sometimes publicly, sometimes to the media, and occasionally to the Senate--I question whether Mr. Brennan can detach himself from those experiences.

For that reason I will oppose his nomination.

I yield the floor.

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