Transcript: Sen. Ted Cruz’s remarks on drones & targeted killing – Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on April 23, 2013

Partial transcript of Sen. Ted Cruz’s remarks on the “Drone Wars: The Constitutional and Counter-Terrorism Implications of Targeted Killing”. The Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights hearing was held on April 23, 2013:

…I’d like to echo the concerns the Chairman raised and the disappointment that the Obama administration declined to send a witness, particularly after this hearing was delayed for one week in order to accommodate the administration’s schedule. And I am hopeful that they will provide witnesses at subsequent hearings.

Drones are a technology. Like any technology, they can be used for good purposes or for ill.

The real scope, I believe, of this hearing and of the concern is on the scope of federal power and, in particular, the scope of federal power to engage in targeted killings.

The Obama administration has for some time advocated for a drastic expansion of federal power in many, many contexts.

Indeed, on April 9, I released a report that detailed six different instances in which the Obama administration has gone before the U.S. Supreme Court advocating a radically broad view of federal power, and six different times the U.S. Supreme Court has unanimously rejected the administration’s view of federal power and has instead concluded unanimously that federal power is more circumscribed than this administration recognizes.

Indeed, federal overreach is what was at the heart of the March 6th filibuster led by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky), which I was quite proud to participate in a significant manner.

That day began with a hearing before this full committee, where Attorney General [Eric] Holder testified. And at the time, I took the opportunity to ask Attorney General Holder if he believed the Constitution allowed the United States government to use a drone to kill a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil if that individual did not pose an imminent threat. The Attorney General declined to answer my question as initially posed and instead he responded that he did not believe that it would be appropriate to use a drone to do so and said – and I paraphrase here – that we should rest confident that in their discretion the administration would not choose to do so.

My response, of course, was the question was not a question about propriety; it was a question addressed to the chief legal officer of the United States asking whether the United States Department of Justice had a legal position on whether the Constitution allows the federal government to kill a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil if that individual does not pose an imminent threat.

Three times I posed that question to General Holder; three times he declined to answer and simply stated that it would [not] be appropriate but he would not say whether or not it would be constitutional. Finally, after the third time, he went back and said when he said inappropriate what he meant was unconstitutional.

That exchange served later as the predicate for the 13-hour filibuster that occurred as first Sen. Rand Paul and then one Senator after another after another came to the floor of the Senate to insist on basic constitutional limits on the authority of the federal government.

And let me be clear: The authority of the federal government and the protection of the Constitution should not be a partisan manner.

The statement from the Attorney General that we should trust the federal government to do what is appropriate – in my view, the Bill of Rights is predicated on the notion that we do not trust those in power be they Democrats or Republicans, that the Bill of Rights exists to protect our liberties regardless of who happens to be in power.

That 13-hour filibuster did something remarkable. During the course of it, Americans became fixated by C-Span. I would suggest fixated by C-Span is not a phrase that exists ordinarily in the English language. But we saw thousands upon thousands of Americans go on Twitter, go on Facebook, begin speaking out for liberty, for limiting the authority of the federal government to take the life of U.S. citizens on U.S. soil.

And as a consequence for standing for principle, we saw the next day the administration do what it had declined to do for many weeks, which is acknowledge in writing that the Constitution does not allow a U.S. citizen to be killed in those circumstances.

In my view, we need greater protections than simply a letter from the administration, and I’m hopeful that Congress will pass legislation making very clear the limits on federal power and I hope that this panel of witnesses will share your wisdom and expertise on the appropriate boundaries under the Constitution and the appropriate statutory boundaries that Congress should consider.


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One Comment on “Transcript: Sen. Ted Cruz’s remarks on drones & targeted killing – Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on April 23, 2013

  1. Pingback: Spotlight: U.S. Drones & Targeted Killing | What The Folly?!

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