Holder: U.S. Drone Strikes Possible

Photography by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Michael Martinez, airframe and power plant mechanic with General Atomics
Aeronautical Systems Inc., inspects an MQ-9 Reaper during a pre-flight check at
Creech Air Force Base in Indian Springs, Nevada. Photography by Ethan Miller / Getty Images

The targeted killing program that has become a staple of U.S. action abroad has never crossed inside U.S. borders, according to Attorney General Eric Holder.

Could there conceivably be a time where drones are ordered to attack U.S. citizens inside the country? Well, maybe, Holder told Sen. Rand Paul in a March 4 letter.

Holder, in a response to queries from the Kentucky Republican, said the question of whether the president could order drone strikes against an American citizen inside the U.S. is “entirely hypothetical, unlikely to occur and one we hope no president will ever have to confront.”

Still, Holder would not rule out that it could happen in the future.

“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,” Holder said, citing the December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor and the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York City’s World Trade Center and the Pentagon outside Washington.

That response was enough to unsettle Paul, a member of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.

“The U.S. Attorney General’s refusal to rule out the possibility of drone strikes on American citizens and on American soil is more than frightening – it is an affront to the Constitutional due process rights of all Americans,” Paul said today in a statement.


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