A filibuster is an odd little piece of the American political process whereby a single senator can grind the entire 100-person body to a screeching halt. Senator Rand Paul from Kentucky did just that on Wednesday (March 6), when he spoke out vehemently against President Obama’s potential uses for military drones. While Paul shared some heartfelt commentary, his primary objective was to delay a vote on John Brennan, a potential new director for the CIA.
PBS reports that Paul claimed partisanship did not inspire his words, but nonetheless, he had some harsh criticism for the president. "I will not sit quietly and let him shred the Constitution," Paul said. "I cannot sit at my desk quietly and let the president say he will kill Americans on American soil who are not actively attacking the country."
Paul was referring to the Obama administration's unclear stance on acceptable targets for drone strikes, especially in the United States itself. Attorney General Eric Holder sent a letter to Paul, which stated, "The U.S. government has not carried out drone strikes in the United States and has no intention of doing so." Later in the letter, however, Holder added, "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 use lethal force within the territory of the United States."
Unmanned aerial vehicles, popularly known as drones, allow a form of warfare that minimizes risk to human combatants. While they have the potential to save soldiers' lives and streamline operations, they have received criticism for their secrecy and lack of accountability.
"I don't think the president would purposely take innocent people and kill them," Paul clarified during his filibuster. "I really don't think he would drop a Hellfire missile on a café or a restaurant like I'm talking about. But it bothers me that he won't say that he won't." [See also: 6 Apps and Sites That Help You Decode the Election ]
Paul succeeded in delaying the vote on Brennan's directorship. If the senator had an ulterior motive of setting the Twittersphere abuzz with commentary on the legality and ethics of drone strikes, then he accomplished that as well. Keep an eye on the White House for the next few days; this probably won't be the end of the discussion on military drones.