Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., speaks on the Senate floor.
WASHINGTON (USA TODAY) -- John Brennan's nomination to lead the CIA was delayed Wednesday by
a filibuster led by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., about concerns about the
legality of drone strikes against U.S. citizens.
"I'm going to speak as long as I can
to draw attention to something I find very disturbing," said Paul, who
started speaking at 11:45 a.m.
WATCH: Rand Paul's filibuster live
What started in the morning as a solo effort turned into a
eight-senator debate that included one Democrat, Ron Wyden of Oregon,
and seven Republicans questioning the constitutionality of drone strikes
on U.S. citizens at home and abroad.
MORE: 5 longest filibusters in Senate history
American should be killed by a drone on American soil without first
being charged with a crime, without first being found guilty of a crime
by a court," Paul said. "How can you kill someone without going to a
judge, or a jury?"
The federal government has not conducted such
operations and doesn't plan to, Attorney General Eric Holder told Paul
in a March 4 letter. But, Holder added, it was possible President Obama
could be forced by an "extraordinary circumstance" to kill citizens
inside the United States, and he cited the Pearl Harbor and 9/11 attacks
During his filibuster, Paul said the fuzziness of
such language created a slippery slope that could lead to the targeting
of citizens who merely have different opinions about policies than the
"You can't be judge, jury and executioner all in one," Paul said.
Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., took the floor around 4:30 to say
any vote to end debate on Brennan's nomination or to approve him as CIA
director would happen Thursday.
Paul said during his filibuster
that his opposition was not about Brennan himself, but the
constitutional issues involved. "We really just want [Obama] to say he
won't" attack noncombatants on U.S. soil.
Democrats who lead the
Senate could move Brennan's nomination to a vote, Paul said, if they
would introduce a resolution saying they would not advocate the killing
of noncombatants with drone strikes.
Wyden, a longtime critic of
excessive government intelligence and surveillance programs, said "the
senator from Kentucky has made a number of important points."
are times, Wyden said, when a U.S. citizen who takes up arms against
the United States while overseas can be attacked by a drone. But the
executive branch of government, he said, should not be allowed to
"conduct such a far-reaching policy without scrutiny."
It's not a
partisan issue, Paul said, noting that he voted to support the
nominations of John Kerry and Chuck Hagel, the secretaries of State and
Paul and other senators had delayed a full Senate vote on
Brennan's nomination until they received more information about the
drone program. The White House provided Justice Department documents on
the drone program to the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday.
The committee then voted 12-3 to approve Brennan's nomination.
the White House's top counterterrorism adviser, was closely linked to
the drone program. The administration has used the unmanned aircraft to
regularly target suspected terrorists in the Middle East and Africa.
2011, U.S.-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki was killed by a drone strike in
Yemen, raising questions about the use of the armed drones on American
Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey
Graham of South Carolina had used Brennan's nomination to air concerns
about the administration's handling of the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the
U.S. Consultate in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans,
including the U.S. ambassador.
McCain and Graham said they would
oppose Brennan unless they got classified documents detailing the
administration's actions immediately following the attack, the
Associated Press reported.
The White House has said it provided more documents to lawmakers about that attack.
Before coming to the White House, Brennan served 25 years in the CIA.