Bill Would Ban Drone Strikes Against U.S. Citizens

WASHINGTON -- There's one measure that quietly passed in the House along with Friday's massive defense bill that libertarians may like: a ban on drone strikes against U.S. citizens.

The idea that the United States military could target citizens with Hellfire missiles from an unmanned aerial vehicle caught prominence when Sen. Rand Paul held an epic 13-hour filibuster demanding to know whether the Obama administration thought it had the authority to carry out such a strike.

Attorney General Eric Holder eventually answered "no," the administration does not, as long as the person is not actively engaged in combat against the United States.

Still, many members of Congress did not want to take Holder at his word, and a ban, authored by Georgia GOP Rep. Paul Broun, was slipped into the National Defense Authorization Act among a block of amendments approved only on a voice vote.

The amendment says the "Department of Defense may not use a drone to kill a citizen of the United States," except in the same case Holder noted.

"The prohibition ... shall not apply to an individual who is actively engaged in combat against the United States."

“I reluctantly supported the NDAA because it is critical that we provide for our national defense and give our men and women in uniform the resources they need," said Broun. "However, I am deeply concerned that the bill doesn’t go far enough to protect U.S. citizens from government overreach, and I plan to continue to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ensure that Americans’ rights are protected."

The Senate is now working on its own version of the bill.

Broun and many others are concerned about the way the administration has been using the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force -- the AUMF -- that was passed after the 9/11 attacks to allow the government to pursue al Qaeda and its allies, and to invade Afghanistan.

The AUMF underpins the practice of targeted killings with drones, and well as the detention of terror suspects.

Broun and several other lawmakers on both sides of the aisle had tried to add a provision to the act to end the AUMF, but none secured a vote.

“I am disappointed that an amendment I cosponsored to sunset the Authorization for Use of Military Force -– a bipartisan effort with Congresswoman Barbara Lee of California –- was not included. The AUMF is the root of some of the most egregious overreaches of the federal government, including warrantless surveillance, indefinite detention, and extra-judicial killing operations, Broun said.

“The AUMF, as utilized by our federal government, is an affront to our liberty and it must go. If additional war authorizations are needed, they should be narrow and clear -- as our Founders intended.”

Michael McAuliff covers Congress and politics for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.



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