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.
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

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

US Urges Restraint in Hong Kong Protests

Protesters angered by Beijing's decision to only approve candidates that it sanctions for Hong Kong's leadership elections in 2017 More

Archive of Forgotten UCLA Speeches Offers Snapshot of History

Recordings of prominent voices in social change, politics, science and literature from 1960s, early 1970s now available on YouTube More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenyai
X
Gabe Joselow
September 29, 2014 6:20 PM
Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Video

Video Reconstruction? What Reconstruction? Life After War in Gaza

It’s been a month since Israel and the Palestinians agreed to a ceasefire to end 52 days of an air and tank war that left 60,000 homes in Gaza damaged or destroyed and 110,000 homeless. Sharon Behn reports that lack of reconstruction is leading to despair.
Video

Video US, Saudi Arabia and UAE Hit Islamic State's Oil Revenue

The United States, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have bombed oil facilities operated by Islamic State militants in Syria. It was a truly collaborative effort, with the two Arab countries dropping the majority of the bombs. The 12 refineries targeted were estimated to generate as much as $2 million per day for the terrorist group. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb has the story.
Video

Video Russia's Food Sanctions Raise Price Worries, Hopes for Domestic Production

Russia retaliated against Western sanctions imposed for its actions in Ukraine by halting food imports from the West. The temporary import ban on food from Australia, the European Union, Norway and North America has Russian consumers concerned that they could face a sharp increase in food prices. But in an ironic twist, the restrictions aimed at the Kremlin have made Russia's domestic food producers hopeful this can boost their business. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Washington to Pyongyang: 'Shut This Evil System Down'

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is calling on North Korea to shut down prison camps and other human rights abuses following a United Nations Commission of Inquiry into "widespread and systematic human rights violations." VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid