News / USA

US Lawmakers Seek Answers on Legality of Domestic Drone Strikes

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder testifies on Capitol Hill before the Senate Judiciary Committee, March 6, 2013.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder testifies on Capitol Hill before the Senate Judiciary Committee, March 6, 2013.
TEXT SIZE - +
Michael Bowman
— For years, the United States has used drone aircraft to attack suspected terrorists in other nations.  Now, America’s top law enforcement official has not entirely ruled out a president ordering drone strikes on U.S. soil.  

Attorney General Eric Holder testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee amid a firestorm on Capitol Hill over presidential authority in times of crisis. 

Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy posed this question:

“Can you agree there is no scenario where it would be appropriate to use an armed drone on U.S. soil to strike an American citizen?”

Holder’s response was less than definitive.

“The government has no intention to carry out any drone strikes in the United States,"he said. "It is hard for me to imagine a situation in which that would occur.  We have within the United States the ability to use our law enforcement capacity.”

The “no intention” assertion does not satisfy Republican Rand Paul, who took to the Senate floor moments later.  Paul noted that Holder speaks for President Barack Obama on legal matters.

“The president says, ‘I have not killed anyone yet,'" said Paul. "He goes on to say, ‘I have no intention of killing Americans, but I might.’  Is that enough?  Are we satisfied by that?”

In a letter to Senator Paul made public Tuesday, Holder said the only conceivable scenario where a president might order a military strike on U.S. soil would be an extraordinary circumstance like the 2001 al-Qaida terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. 

At the hearing, the attorney general repeatedly said it would not be “appropriate” to order a strike on a terror suspect spotted eating in a café or walking down a street.  Holder said regular law enforcement can be used to apprehend suspects in non-emergency situations.

Lawmakers urged the Obama administration to fully disclose its thinking on this issue. 

“American citizens have a right to understand when their life can be taken by their government, absent due process," said Republican Senator Chuck Grassley.

That sentiment was echoed by Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, who serves on the Judiciary Committee and is chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

“Our job is vigorous oversight of the intelligence community," she said. "We cannot do this unless we see the legal underpinnings for certain kinds of activities, particularly clandestine activities.”

Holder said he expects President Obama to personally address the topic in coming months. Administration officials are already on record defending drone strikes outside the United States, including the killing of U.S. citizens believed to be plotting attacks from afar.

Concern over the drone program has delayed Senate confirmation of President Obama’s pick to head the CIA, former counterterrorism advisor John Brennan.

You May Like

Multimedia Parents of Disaster Ferry Passengers Lash Out at Authorities

Twenty-nine bodies recovered from water but some 270 remain trapped on board More

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

US congressional delegation initiates $84 million Agent Orange cleanup project More

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid