Attorney General: Obama Can’t Order Drone Attack on Americans on US Soil

Attorney General Eric Holder testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee.C-Span

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.


It took Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) filibustering for 13 straight hours, but the White House has finally clarified that President Barack Obama cannot order a drone strike on an American citizen on American soil. In a curt, 43-word letter, Attorney General Eric Holder clarified the administration’s stance. 

“It has come to my attention that you have now asked an additional question: “Does the President have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil?” Holder wrote. “The answer to that question is no.”

Holder had previously stated in a letter to Paul that he believed it would be appropriate to use deadly military force on American soil in two “catastrophic” scenarios—namely another Pearl Harbor or 9/11.

“Nobody questions if planes are flying towards the Twin Towers whether they can be repulsed by the military,” Paul said during his filibuster Wednesday. “Nobody questions whether a terrorist with a rocket launcher or a grenade launcher is attacking us, whether they can be repelled.”

Paul had also asked during his filibuster whether an Arab American “sitting in a cafeteria in Dearborn, Michigan,” and suspected of ties to terror could be targeted with lethal force by a drone. “As for Paul and Holder, I suspect they’re in complete agreement on the ‘café’ hypothetical—but who isn’t?” says Steve Vladeck, a professor at American University School of Law. “This isn’t about cafés—it’s about dirt roads in northern Yemen.”

Here’s Holder’s letter:

 

FOLLOW THE MONEY

Corporations and billionaires don’t fund journalism like ours that exists to shake things up. Instead, support from readers allows Mother Jones to call it like it is without fear, favor, or false equivalence.

And right now, a longtime friend of Mother Jones has pledged an incredibly generous gift to inspire—and double—giving from online readers. That's huge! Because you can see that our fall fundraising drive is well behind the $325,000 we need to raise. So if you agree that in-depth, fiercely independent journalism matters right now, please support our work and help us raise the money it takes to keep Mother Jones charging hard. Your gift, and all online donations up to $94,000 total, will be matched and go twice as far—but only until the November 9 deadline.

$400,000 to go: Please help us pick up the pace!

payment methods

FOLLOW THE MONEY

Corporations and billionaires don’t fund journalism like ours that exists to shake things up. Instead, support from readers allows Mother Jones to call it like it is without fear, favor, or false equivalence.

And right now, a longtime friend of Mother Jones has pledged an incredibly generous gift to inspire—and double—giving from online readers. That's huge! Because you can see that our fall fundraising drive is well behind the $325,000 we need to raise. So if you agree that in-depth, fiercely independent journalism matters right now, please support our work and help us raise the money it takes to keep Mother Jones charging hard. Your gift, and all online donations up $94,000 total, will be matched and go twice as far—but only until the November 9 deadline.

$400,000 to go: Please help us pick up the pace!

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate