“I rise today to begin to filibuster John Brennan’s nomination for the CIA I will speak until I can no longer speak” were the opening words uttered by Kentucky’s Rand Paul as he rose to filibuster the use of drones and their potential use within the United States, specifically as it related to noncombatants on U.S. soil (Little and Voorhees). The Freshman Senator had risen to filibuster the nomination of John Brennan to the position of CIA Director. “I will speak as long as it takes, until the alarm is sounded from coast to coast that our Constitution is important, that your rights to trial by jury are precious, that no American should be killed by a drone on American soil without first being charged with a crime, without first being found to be guilty by a court…I rise today for the principle” (Little). Speaking from where another famous Kentuckian Senator, Henry Clay, once spoke, Senator Paul spoke for 12 hours and 53 minutes, making his filibuster the ninth longest ever.
Almost twelve years earlier, nearly three thousand Americans were murdered and over six thousand were injured in the largest terrorist attack in American history. Even after twelve years, September 11th still had a significant impact on political discourse, especially within Senator Paul’s Republican Party. It was the Senator’s own party which was in power at the time, passed the US Patriot Act and entered America into two wars in response to that day. Two presidential cycles prior, his party nominated John McCain, one of the nation’s leading national security hawks. Even within his own party, a significant plurality opposed the idea behind the filibuster (Brown). By no means is his party friendly to pro civil liberty positions yet Senator Paul was taking a bold stand for civil liberty.
Rand Paul took the floor at 11:47 am on Wednesday, March 6th and held it until he yielded on Thursday at 12:40 am with applause from his supporters in Congress (Michaels). While on the floor the Senator was accompanied by fellow Republican Senators Ted Cruz of Texas, Mike Lee of Utah, Marco Rubio of Florida and Jerry Maron of Kansas. He was also accompanied by Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, the only Democrat to support Paul. Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois gave him tea and an apple, an allusion to the movie “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” (Paul).
In a letter prior to the filibuster, Attorney General Eric Holder said that the President may kill Americans in “extraordinary circumstance”. Along with the letter, the White House provided documents over their drone program to the Senate Intelligence Committee, the committee which approved Brennan’s confirmation by a vote of 12 to 3 (Isikoff). Brennan himself worked with the CIA for 25 years and was close to the White House’s drone program as White House’s Counterterrorism Chief (Klaidman).
While on the floor the “Twitterverse” exploded in support. At 7:30 pm Senator Cruz began to read tweets from supporters of the Senator. During the filibuster, fifteen Representatives came to the chamber to show their support to Senator Paul. Two Senators even used the filibuster to make their first statements on the Senate floor. According to Paul he, “had a large binder of materials to help me get through my points, but although I sometimes read an op-ed or prepared remarks in between my thoughts, most of my filibuster was off the top of my head and straight from my heart. From 1 to 2 p.m., I barely looked at my notes. I wanted to make sure that I touched every point and fully explained why I was demanding more information from the White House” (Paul).
In the end, Senator Paul won. The day the filibuster ended, Attorney General Eric Holder responded that the President is not authorized to deploy the punishments in question without due process, guaranteed by the fourth and fifth amendments, against non-combatant citizens. In the letter, Attorney General Holder simply said “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.” Clear and simple although, in what seems to be a sly, the Paul camp noted they were the only ones not to get the letter. Their spokesman said, “Apparently he sent it to everyone except the man who asked the question” (Halper). Paul answered that he was “quite happy” with the response (Weiner). John Brennan was confirmed to be Director of the CIA (Blake).
March 6th, 2013, was a breath of fresh air in Washington DC. It was a rare opportunity for a renegade politician stood up to the Washington for what was right. All too often the political machine breaks the spirits of anyone showing independent streaks and doing what they believe to be right. Thankfully, four years ago there was an exception to that rule. A popular meme parodying Star Wars Episode IV described Washington DC as a hive of “scum and villainy”. For 12 hours and 53 minutes, one Senator went Rouge and gave America a new hope.
Blake, Aaron. “John Brennan’s Confirmation: How They Voted.” The Washington Post. WP Company, 7 Mar. 2013. Web. 24 Dec. 2016.
Brown, Alyssa, and Frank Newport. “In U.S., 65% Support Drone Attacks on Terrorists Abroad.” Gallup.com. N.p., 25 Mar. 2013. Web. 24 Dec. 2016.
Halper, Daniel. “Holder’s Letter to Rand Paul: ‘No,’ the U.S. Can’t Use Drone to Kill Citizen Not Engaged in Combat on U.S. Soil.” Weekly Standard. The Weekly Standard, 07 Mar. 2013. Web. 24 Dec. 2016.
Isikoff, Michael. “Holder: No Drone Strikes in US, except in ‘extraordinary Circumstance'” NBCNews.com. NBCUniversal News Group, 5 Mar. 2013. Web. 24 Dec. 2016.
Klaidman, Daniel. “Who Is John Brennan, the Man Touted to Be the Next CIA Director?” The Daily Beast. The Daily Beast Company, 22 Nov. 2012. Web. 24 Dec. 2016.
Little, Morgan. “Transcript: Rand Paul’s Filibuster of John Brennan’s CIA Nomination.” Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 07 Mar. 2013. Web. 24 Dec. 2016.
Michaels, Jim. “Rand Paul Ends Epic Filibuster over Brennan.” USA Today. Gannett Satellite Information Network, 07 Mar. 2013. Web. 24 Dec. 2016.
Paul, Rand. “Sen. Rand Paul: My Filibuster Was Just the Beginning.” The Washington Post. WP Company, 18 Mar. 2013. Web. 24 Dec. 2016.
Voorhees, Josh. “Where Ted Cruz’s Fake Filibuster Would Rank in History If It Were a Real Filibuster.” Slate Magazine. N.p., 25 Sept. 2013. Web. 24 Dec. 2016.
Weiner, Rachel, Aaron Blake, and Philip Rucker. “Eric Holder Responds to Rand Paul with ‘no,’ Paul Satisfied.” The Washington Post. WP Company, 7 Mar. 2013. Web. 24 Dec. 2016.