The filibuster began Wednesday afternoon and lasted for
nearly 13 hours,
ending after midnight on Thursday. Paul was demanding that the White House clarify that it would not use aerial drones on U.S. soil to kill American citizens suspected of terrorism — a point on which he felt the administration had not been sufficiently clear.
Brennan’s nomination forced the administration to be more forthcoming about its secretive drone operations, which have devastated al-Qaeda’s core leadership in Pakistan and have been expanded to target affiliated groups in Yemen and Somalia.
Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), one of the administration’s harshest Republican critics but a supporter of the drone program, said the filibuster caused him to change his vote on the Brennan nomination to support Obama.
“I am going to vote for Brennan now because it’s become a referendum on the drone program,” Graham said. “Where were all these people during the Bush administration?”
The one Democrat who joined the filibuster, Sen. Ron Wyden (Ore.), said that Paul was asking important questions of the administration.
“I want it understood that I have great respect for this effort to really ask these kinds of questions,” Wyden said. “And Senator Paul has certainly been digging into these issues in great detail.”
The American Civil Liberties Union issued a statement supporting Paul. “There is now a truly bipartisan coalition in Congress and among the public demanding that President Obama turn over the legal opinions claiming the authority to kill people far from a battlefield, including American citizens,” said Laura W. Murphy, director of the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office.
Brennan, a CIA veteran and former station chief in Saudi Arabia, has served as Obama’s principal counterterrorism adviser for the past four years and one of the chief architects of the program that has emerged as the spy agency’s signature counterterrorism tactic. The Brennan nomination brought unprecedented scrutiny to the administration’s use of drones to kill terrorist suspects overseas, and in recent days critics have questioned whether it could be imported to the United States to target American terrorism suspects at home.
A still-theoretical discussion about the domestic use of armed drones emerged in recent days from congressional demands to review Justice Department legal opinions that justified the 2011 drone killing in Yemen of Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen.