Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon on Wednesday joined a filibuster over the use of drone strikes against U.S. citizens, urging Congress to take action on the issue.
“Every American has the right to know when their government believes that it is allowed to kill them,” he remarked.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) began the filibuster Wednesday morning amid the nomination of John Brennan as the next director of the CIA. He began the filibuster because U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said Tuesday the United States could “hypothetically” use lethal military force against American citizens in “an extraordinary circumstance.”
Wyden said he planned to vote in favor Brennan, but still supported Paul’s filibuster. The Democratic senator, who has pushed the Obama administration to release more information about drone strikes, said Brennan’s nomination was an opportune time to bring the issue to light.
Wyden claimed the United States had the right to use lethal military force against citizens who joined foreign militant groups and waged war against the country. However, he warned the current practice of using drone strikes to kill suspected terrorists was clouded in secrecy and lacked congressional oversight, which he described as an affront to the American system of checks and balances.
“The executive branch should not be allowed to conduct such a serious and far-reaching program by themselves without any scrutiny because that’s not how American democracy works,” he remarked. “That’s not what our system is about.”
Wyden said he understood why Paul was so concerned by the letter he received. However, in Wyden’s view it appeared the attorney general had ruled out the possibility of using military force within the United States except in extremely rare situations, such as an invasion.
“In my judgment, if the United States is being attacked by a foreign power — the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor — the President can indeed have the power to use military force to defend our country,” he said, adding it was important to establish that “unless there is an exceptional situation, like Pearl Harbor, the President should not go around ordering the military to use lethal force inside the United States.”
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