Attorney General Eric Holder said at a Senate Judiciary Committee oversight hearing today that his letter Monday to Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) regarding use of drones inside the United States was “entirely hypothetical.”
“What I said in the letter was the government has no intention to carry out any drone strikes in the United States,” Holder said in response to a question from Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.).
He said the use of drones in places like Afghanistan is based on the difficulty of capturing targets. “That is not the same thing here in the United States,” Holder said. “As a result the use of drones is from my perspective entirely – entirely – hypothetical,” Holder said.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) pressed Holder with a hypothetical: “If an individual is sitting quietly at a café in the United States, in your legal judgment does the Constitution allow” use of lethal drone action “if that individual is not posing an imminent threat of bodily harm.”
Holder answered: “The use of lethal force would not be appropriate” in such a situation.
Parried Cruz: “You keep saying appropriate. My question isn’t about propriety. It is about whether it is constitutional.”
“Well then, no,” Holder said.
Paul has threatened to filibuster the nomination of John Brennan as CIA director over use of the secret drone program.
In his letter on Monday to Paul, Holder wrote:
“It is possible, I suppose, to imagine an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the President to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States.
“For example, the president could conceivably have no choice but to authorize the military to use such force if necessary to protect the homeland in the circumstances like a catastrophic attack like the ones suffered on December 7, 1941, and September 11, 2001.”