Rand Paul Threatens to Put Hold on Obama Nominee Over Drone Memo

1st Circuit Court of Appeals nominee reportedly wrote at least one secret memo justifying the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki.


Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has warned Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) that he will put a hold on one of President Obama's appellate court nominees over his role in crafting justification of the assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American Islamic militant, who was killed by a drone strike in Yemen in September 2011. The strike also killed Samir Khan, the editor of the Al Qaeda magazine Inspire who, like Awlaki, was an American citizen.

David Barron, who has been nominated to the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals who used to work at the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, reportedly drafted at least one secret memo approving of Anwar al-Awlaki's killing. Paul says that he will lift his objection to Barron's nomination if the Justice Department releases his memos related to the killing Anwar al-Awlaki.

DOJ's justification for Awlaki drone strike

In May 2013 Attorney General Eric Holder wrote a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt) which laid out three circumstances that would justify the killing of an American citizen who is a senior operational position of Al Qaeda or an affiliated group in a foreign country:

(1) the U.S. government has determined, after a thorough and careful review, that the individual poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States; (2) capture is not feasible; and (3) the operation would be conducted in a manner consistent with applicable law of war principles.

According to Holder, Awlaki met each of these three conditions.

Read the letter in full below:

Holder's letter to Leahy came a few months after Paul conducted a 13-hour filibuster in opposition to John Brennan's nomination to head of the CIA. During the filibuster Paul pointed out that the Obama administration had not ruled out the possibility of killing an American not engaged in combat with a drone strike on American soil. The filibuster came shortly after Holder had written a letter to Paul, who had asked whether the president had to authority to order a drone strike against an American on American soil without trial, which said:

…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 authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States.

Holder wrote a letter to Paul after the filibuster that said the following: 

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?" The answer to that question is no.

Reason on Paul's filibuster

Nick Gillespie on progressive democrats explaining why they didn't #StandWithRand against drone strikes.

Brian Doherty on Rand Paul's Filibuster: its historical context, and its encouraging friends.

Peter Suderman on John Yoo, author of the Bush torture memos, criticizing Paul for taking an extreme position on drones.

I wrote about how Paul's filibuster highlights another reason why the U.S. needs an equivalent of the British Parliament's Prime Minister's Questions.

Matt Welch wrote that Paul's filibuster may have changed American politics.

Brian Doherty asked if Paul changed the GOP for the better in 36 hours.