Rand Paul Drones: How Armed UAVs Are Creating Unlikely Alliances


Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-Ky.) filibuster this past week brought the issue of Drones being used to target American citizens to the forefront of Congressional discourse. His remarkable 13-hours at the stand preventing a vote on John Brennan's confirmation as CIA director drew light to a divide on constitutionality that transcends the lines of traditional beltway alliances.

Paul's actions drew the ire of fellow Republicans Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.). On the Senate floor Thursday, McCain stated, "To somehow allege or infer that the President of the United States is going to kill somebody like Jane Fonda, or somebody who disagrees with the policies, is a stretch of imagination which is, frankly, ridiculous."

Graham went as far to accuse the Republicans of hypocrisy by stating, "But to my Republican colleagues, I don’t remember any of you coming down here suggesting that President Bush was going to kill anybody with a drone."

Paul's supporters in the move included the Heritage Foundation, Freedom Works, and even liberals such as Van Jones and the Code Pink movement. Christopher Anders, senior legislative counsel to the ACLU, stated, "It was a courageous and historic effort by Sen. Paul and his colleagues to demand information from this administration on an issue where they have refused to give it." Even Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), who opposes the use of the filibuster tweeted, "Good for Sen. Paul a talking filibuster to fight for an important ideal."

But where were the rest of the Democrats? Clearly the Democrats are incredibly reluctant to question President Obama's controversial use of drones for targeted killings. If this acceleration of drone usage or the question of extra-judicial killings were as prevalent during the Bush administration the Democrats would be outraged. Madea Benjamin, co-founder of Code Pink, said that Democrats "would have been yelling and screaming about it," if Bush and Chaney were still in power.

The one area where there is across the board consensus is the use of drones domestically. Attorney General Eric Holder stated that the White House could not order a strike on a U.S. citizen suspected to be a terrorist inside the U.S. Such an assertion would be politically destructive to politicians on all sides of the spectrum and a direct violation of due process rights.

The question of drones presents a unique predicament in which Republicans are finding allies among activist groups and Democrats are remaining decidedly silent. Sen. Paul achieved his goal and brought significant attention to the drone program and its potential dangers to the American populace if left unregulated. However, the drone program abroad will only continue to expand, and many members of Congress seem to not have issue with the executive branch's growing power in this arena. Regardless, Paul's stunt surprised many by exposing unlikely alliances in an era where ideological lines are incredibly clear.