SEARCH

Entries in Drones (5)

Sunday
May262013

Sen. Rand Paul: Drones, Scandals Threaten Obama’s ‘Moral Authority’

ABC(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said on ABC’s This Week that the recent controversies engulfing the White House over the IRS, reporter leak investigations, and Benghazi have threatened President Obama’s “moral authority to lead the nation,” while he continued to question the administration’s use of drone strikes against terrorist targets overseas.

“I think the constellation of these three scandals ongoing, really takes away from the president’s moral authority to lead the nation,” Paul said Sunday morning on This Week. “Nobody questions his legal authority, but I think he’s really losing the moral authority to lead this nation. And he really needs to put a stop to this. I don’t care whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat, nobody likes to see the opposite party punishing you for your political beliefs, using the power of government to do so.”

While he has called for a special counsel to investigate the IRS scandal, in which the IRS gave increased scrutiny to conservative groups applying for non-profit status, Paul would not say whether he believed any crimes were committed.

“I don’t think we know so far. The main woman from the IRS that’s involved has taken the Fifth Amendment. She’s no longer cooperating,” Paul said of Lois Lerner, the IRS official who refused to testify at a House committee hearing on Wednesday, and was put on leave from her position Thursday. “I think there needs to be a speedy resolution to this… If he goes beyond 30 days and if no one is fired over this? I really think it’s going to be trouble for him trying to lead in the next four years.”

And while Paul said he was “pleased with” the words of President Obama’s major national security speech last week, he continued to question the administration’s use of drone strikes and whether proper due process is occurring before military action against terrorist targets.

“I was pleased with his words, and I was pleased with the – that he did respond to this,” Paul said in reaction to President Obama’s speech Thursday at the National Defense University. “However, there still is a question in my mind of what he thinks due process is. You know, due process to most of us is a court of law, it’s a trial by a jury. And right now their process is him looking at some flashcards and a PowerPoint presentation on ‘Terror Tuesdays’ in the White House. For a lot of us, that’s not really due process.”

When asked whether a drone strike should have been used against Al Qaeda leader and American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed by a drone strike in Yemen in 2011, Paul reiterated his belief that the U.S. should attempt to try individuals for treason, with a judge reviewing evidence before military strikes.

“If you are conspiring to attack America and you are a traitor, I would try you for treason,” Paul said. “If you don’t come home for the trial, I would try you in absentia. And then the death penalty has been used repeatedly throughout our history for treason, but a judge looks at evidence. And that’s something that separates us from the rest of the world, is that we adjudicate things by taking it to an independent body who’s not politically motivated, or elected.”

Paul, who led a 13-hour Senate filibuster on the administration’s use of drone strikes in March, also questioned whether President Obama was truly protecting civil liberties by promising not to carry out certain actions such as detaining citizens indefinitely – while still retaining the power to do so under the law.

“It’s not good enough to us that he’s not using a power,” Paul said. “We want him to assert that he won’t, that he doesn’t have the power.”

Paul said he did not back closing the detainee prison at Guantanamo Bay, which President Obama called for again last week, but Paul said the prison has “become a symbol of something though, and I think things should change.”

“I think the people being held there are bad people,” Paul said. “What I would do though is I would accuse them, charge them, and try them in military commissions, or trials, or tribunals. And I think that would go a long way toward showing the world that we’re not going to hold them without charge forever.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Mar072013

Rand Paul Ends Nearly 13-Hour Filibuster Against John Brennan

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call(WASHINGTON) -- At 12:39 a.m. Eastern time Thursday, Sen. Rand Paul ended his filibuster blocking John Brennan's nomination to head the CIA in protest of the Obama administration’s policy that allows the potential use of drones to fight terrorism on U.S. soil.

Paul yielded the floor just shy of 13 hours.  The late Sen. Strom Thurmond holds the record for a filibuster.  The South Carolina Republican filibustered the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1957 for 24 hours and 18 minutes.

The most recent talking filibuster came from U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, who spent some eight hours filibustering a tax bill in 2010.

As he yielded the floor, Paul told his Senate colleagues, “I would go for another 12 hours and try to break Strom Thurmond's record, but I have learned there are limits and I have to go take care of one of those right now.”

The Kentucky Republican expressed hope that the administration would address the issue of drones on Thursday and clarify that it won't target American citizens in the U.S.

The Capitol Hill drama began late Wednesday morning when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid tried to push the chamber toward a final vote on Brennan's nomination, but was blocked when Paul took the Senate floor at 11:47 a.m. in a filibuster.  Brennan had received approval from the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday in a 12-3 vote.

It was an unusual tactic in a Senate that no longer relies on traditional filibusters, in which a single senator ties up the Senate floor by speaking for hours on end.

The Kentucky Republican declared, “I will speak as long as it takes, until the alarm is sounded from coast to coast that our constitution is important, that your rights to trial by jury are precious, that no American should be killed by a drone on American soil without first being charged with a crime, without first being found to be guilty by a court.”

Paul continued, “That Americans could be killed in a cafe in San Francisco or in a restaurant in Houston or at their home in Bowling Green, Ky., is an abomination.  It is something that should not and cannot be tolerated in our country.”

The senator summed up his reason for the filibuster by saying, “I'm not asking any questions about the president's motives.  I don't question his motives.  I, frankly, don't think he will be killing people in restaurants tonight or in their house tonight.”

He continued, “But this is about the rule of law.  It isn't so much about him.  It isn't so much about John Brennan.  It's about having rules so that someday if we do have the misfortune of electing someone you do not trust, electing someone who might kill innocent people or who might kill people that they disagree with politically or they might kill people who they disagree with religiously or might kill people of another ethnic group, we're protected.”

Earlier in the day, Attorney General Eric Holder told a Senate panel that while the president has the legal authority to order a drone strike against an American on U.S. soil, under "extraordinary circumstances,” the government “has no intention to carry out any drone strikes in the United States.”  Holder added, “It's hard for me to imagine a situation in which that would occur.”

During his filibuster, Paul was seen munching on a candy bar, sipping water and drinking some hot tea.

As the filibuster entered its 12th hour, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell appeared on the Senate floor and congratulated his fellow Kentuckian and said he'll oppose moving toward a vote on Brennan and that there should be more debate.  

It’s not clear if there will be enough votes to block Brennan if Democrats try to end the debate on Thursday.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Monday
Feb112013

Rep. Cole Poses Doubts on Obama's Plans for Budget, Guns, Drones

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama's plea to House Republicans to include new revenues along with spending cuts to head off the March 1 sequester has apparently fallen on deaf ears.

Deputy Majority Whip Tom Cole told ABC's This Week Sunday that GOP lawmakers will hold the line on any tax increases because of how the White House got its way in the fiscal cliff deal last Jan. 1.

According to the Oklahoma Republican, "The president accepted no spending cuts back in the ‘fiscal cliff’ deal 45 days ago, so you get no spending cuts back then, then you’re going to get no revenue now."

The president wants a balanced package in an effort to stave deep automatic spending cuts that will immediately take an $85 billion chunk out of the budgets of the Pentagon and other government programs.

The 10-year plan, approved by a "supercommittee" of bipartisan lawmakers in 2011, calls for $1.2 trillion in cuts over a decade.

Meanwhile, Cole also addressed two other hot-button issues: overseas drone strikes and gun violence at home.

As for the president's sweeping proposals to curb gun violence, Cole said he expected congressional agreement on improved mental health programs and possibly enhanced background checks but expressed doubt that anything that would directly affect gun ownership will get through Congress.

In regards to overseas strikes against terrorists, even those who are American citizens, Cole suggested that perhaps the program should be scaled back since by only killing suspects, U.S. intelligence is missing out on gaining valuable information.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Feb102013

‘This Week’ Roundtable Debates Obama Drone Program

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., pushed for more congressional oversight of the Obama administration’s drone program, saying a legal architecture needs to be put in place on the use of drone strikes against potential terrorist targets overseas.

“I’ve looked into this, I haven’t found one public hearing on drones,” Ellison said Sunday on the This Week roundtable. “Now, we had the Brennan hearings, but, you know, Congress has an oversight responsibility here… The president has invited the conversation. He said we need a legal architecture around this thing, so why don’t we go do it?”

Ellison also questioned the legal rationale cited in a leaked Justice Department white paper that applied a wide definition to what constituted an “imminent” terrorist threat. “This is the broadest use of the term ‘imminent’ I’ve ever heard,” Ellison said.

President Obama’s pick for CIA Director John Brennan faced tough questioning at his Senate confirmation hearing last week on the Obama administration’s use of drone strikes, which have greatly increased during Obama’s time in office.

Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., called the hearings “very helpful,” but agreed with Ellison that there needs to be more discussion of the drone program. Cole questioned whether some of the strikes are hurting intelligence efforts by killing instead of capturing terrorist targets.

“I really do think we are losing a lot of opportunities out there to actually extract people and – and get information, and human intelligence is really much more important than taking out individual targets,” Cole said.

Republican strategist and ABC News political analyst and contributor Nicolle Wallace said former President George W. Bush would have been judged much more harshly for using the same measures.

“It’s slightly hilarious that people have all this patience for a legal architecture to be crafted after the fact,” Wallace said. “If this had been President George W. Bush’s administration revealing that this many drone attacks are going on, there would be impeachment hearings underway. So the hypocrisy sort of has Republicans steaming.”

But Wallace added that many Republicans have been pleased that President Obama has continued many of the counter-terrorism efforts of the previous administration.

“I think the actual policy and the fact that President Obama has continued almost the entire basket [and], in the case of drone killings, [has] greatly accelerated their use, has Republicans feeling pretty satisfied that the counter-terrorism policies put in place by the Bush administration, which Dick Cheney was the architect of many of them, have been continued by this president,” Wallace said.

Former Obama 2012 deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter countered that the Obama administration has tried to be transparent on the drone program, while ending the use of torture to gather intelligence.

“Mr. Brennan, the president, the administration has said that they want transparency, accountability, and a process to ensure that… everybody’s aware of what we’re doing going forward,” Cutter said.

While the debate over the drone strike program continues in Washington, ABC News chief global affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz, who just returned from the Middle East, noted how poorly received the strikes are in countries impacted by them.

“I’ve been in all the places they’re used, in Yemen, in Pakistan, and people there do not like them,” Raddatz said. “John Brennan is able to say, ‘look, it’s very effective, and it’s certainly been effective taking out core leadership, but when you talk to people on the street, you wonder what the long-term strategy is.”

 

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Monday
Apr302012

Brennan Defends Drone Strikes as Pakistan and Protestor Object

C-SPAN(WASHINGTON) -- As White House counter-terrorism advisor John Brennan delivered a speech Monday defending the U.S. drone campaign against Taliban and al Qaeda militants, an audience member interrupted and delivered a minute-long speech of her own protesting the targeted killings and the death of al Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki's teen son in Yemen.

"What about the hundreds of innocent people we are killing with our drone strikes in Pakistan and in Yemen and Somalia?" said the well-dressed blonde woman as Brennan tried to address the Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington Monday. Before she was carried from the auditorium, she condemned Brennan for the death of Awlaki's U.S.-born son Abdulrahman in an October 2011 drone strike and said "I speak out on behalf of the Constitution...Shame on you!"

Brennan's speech defending the U.S. drone campaign, the Obama administration's first public admission that it is using drones to take down al Qaeda, comes as Pakistan delivered its strongest and most public condemnation yet of U.S. strikes, accusing the U.S. of violating Pakistani sovereignty, calling the campaign "a total contravention of international law and established norms of interstate relations."

"The government of Pakistan has consistently maintained that drone attacks are violative of its territorial integrity and sovereignty," said the statement.

In his remarks, Brennan confirmed that the U.S. "in full accordance with the law – and in order to prevent terrorist attacks on the United States and save American lives ... conducts targeted strikes against specific al Qaeda terrorists, sometimes using remotely piloted aircraft, often referred to publicly as drones. And I'm here today because President Obama has instructed us to be more open with the American people about these efforts."

Brennan stressed his belief that the strikes are allowed under both U.S. and international law, and also that they are ethical and "wise."

"They can be a wise choice because they dramatically reduce the danger to U.S. personnel, even eliminating the danger altogether," said Brennan. "Yet they are also a wise choice because they dramatically reduce the danger to innocent civilians."

Brennan also asserted that the U.S. holds itself to "rigorous standards...when considering and authorizing strikes."

"I know that for many people the issue of targeted strikes raised profound moral questions," said Brennan. "It forces us to confront deeply held personal beliefs and our values as a nation. If anyone in government who works in this area tells you they haven't struggled with this, then they haven't spent much time thinking about it." But until al Qaeda "fades into history," concluded Brennan, "if another nation cannot or will not take action, we will. And it is unfortunate that to save innocent lives we are sometimes obliged to take lives – the lives of terrorists who seek to murder our fellow citizens."

Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S.-born radical cleric and leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, died in a drone strike in Yemen last September. His 16-year-old son Abdulrahman died less than three weeks later in a separate drone strike.

Pakistan's protest came after a U.S. drone strike Sunday in Waziristan.

The strike killed three suspected militants who were hiding out in an abandoned girls school, according to U.S. officials. There were no other casualties.

Drones strikes have become increasingly unpopular in Pakistan. Earlier this month, lawmakers there established a new set of guidelines for rebuilding the country's relationship with the United States. Among their first conditions was the immediate cessation of all drone strikes in Pakistani territory.

Monday's harsh condemnation is the latest in a series of tit-for-tat accusations that have soured Pakistan-U.S. relations ever since the May 2011 Navy SEAL raid that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Relations hit a new low last November when a U.S. airstrike killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in Solala, along the country's Afghan border. U.S. officials said the attack was a mistake, but stopped short of issuing a formal apology. In response, Pakistan closed the NATO supply route from its side of the Khyber Pass into Afghanistan, cutting off supplies desperately needed to support the Afghan mission.

Recently, there had been signs that both sides were willing to compromise. Marc Grossman, U.S. special envoy to the region, recently wrapped up a two day visit to Pakistan, during which he met with Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and Pakistan's foreign minister to lobby for the reopening of the route. Pakistani officials themselves say they want the route re-opened, but have set the cessation of drone strikes and a formal apology for the Solala incident as preconditions.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio