Wednesday, President Barack Obama unequivocally said he does not support government use of armed drones on American soil.
In his first extensive remarks surrounding the secretive drone program, the president said he recently declassified the poorly-kept secret that four U.S. citizens had been killed in drone strikes overseas in order to "dismiss some of the outlandish claims" surrounding drones.
"For the record, I do not believe it would be constitutional for the government to target and kill any U.S. citizen – with a drone, or a shotgun – without due process. Nor should any president deploy armed drones over U.S. soil," he said.
That question became the basis for Sen. Rand Paul's nearly 13-hour filibuster of the confirmation of John Brennan as the new director of the Central Intelligence Agency after Attorney General Eric Holder said in a letter to Paul that "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."
In interviews with Fox News, Paul said Holder suggested drone strikes could be carried out at any moment.
"The thing about the drone strike program is we're not talking about someone actively attacking America — we're not talking about planes flying into the World Trade Center," the Kentucky Republican told Fox News "What we're talking about is you're eating dinner in your house, you're eating at a cafe or you're walking down the road."
Obama said Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen who was targeted and killed in a drone strike in Yemen in 2011, was actively plotting against the United States.
"When a U.S. citizen goes abroad to wage war against America – and is actively plotting to kill U.S. citizens; and when neither the United States, nor our partners are in a position to capture him before he carries out a plot – his citizenship should no more serve as a shield than a sniper shooting down an innocent crowd should be protected from a SWAT team," Obama said.
Three other American citizens, including al-Awlaki's son Abdulrahman, were killed in drone strikes. The administration says those Americans were not "specifically targeted."