Cliffs Notes for the Filibuster: Rand Paul in His Own Words

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The Kentucky Republican's nearly 13-hour stand on the Senate floor, condensed into a tight brief for civil liberties

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Associated Press

Senator Rand Paul spent nearly 13 hours on the Senate floor Wednesday conducting an old-fashioned filibuster. If you don't have a whole day to watch the C-SPAN footage, or a couple hours to read the transcripts, here's a condensed version that includes most of the points he made.

On the purpose of his filibuster:

"I rise today to begin to filibuster John Brennan's nomination for the CIA I will speak until I can no longer speak. 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. That Americans could be killed in a cafe in San Francisco or in a restaurant in Houston or at their home in Bowling Green, Kentucky, is an abomination."

Why he worries about killing within the United States:

"When I asked the president, can you kill an American on American soil, it should have been an easy answer. It's an easy question. It should have been a resounding and unequivocal, 'no.' The president's response? He hasn't killed anyone yet. We're supposed to be comforted by that. The president says, I haven't killed anyone yet. He goes on to say, 'and I have no intention of killing Americans. But I might.' 

"Is that enough?

"Are we satisfied by that?

"Are we so complacent with our rights that we would allow a president to say he might kill Americans?"

The Constitutional grounds for his objections:

"What does the Fifth Amendment say? The Fifth Amendment says that no person shall be held to answer for a capital or otherwise infamous crime unless on presentment or indictment of a grand jury. It is pretty explicit. The Fifth Amendment protects you, it protects from you a king placing you in the tower, but it also should protect from you a president that might kill you with a drone. We were granted due process. It's not always easy to sort out the details of who is a threat." 

Why he is frustrated with President Obama:

"The answer should be so easy. I cannot imagine that he will not expressly come forward and say, no, I will not kill Americans on American soil. I can't understand the president's unwillingness to say, he's not going to kill noncombatants. Think about that. He's unwilling to say publicly that he's not going to kill noncombatants, because that's what we're talking about here. I'm not talking about someone with a bazooka a grenade launcher on their shoulder. Anyone committing lethal force can be repelled with lethal force. No one argues that point. I'm talking about whether you can kill noncombatants, because many of the people being killed overseas are noncombatants .... We're talking about people eating in a cafe, at home, in a restaurant.

"I think we need to be a little more careful."

The problem with a War on Terrorism unbound by geography:

"Alarm bells should go off when people tell you that the battlefield's in America. Why? Because when the battlefield's in America, we don't have due process. What they're talking about is they want the laws of war. They call it the laws of war. Another way to put it is to call it martial law. That's what they want in the United States when they say the battlefield is here... When people tell you that America is a battlefield, when they tell you that the battlefield is here, realize what they are telling you. They are telling you your Bill of Rights don't apply, because in the battlefield, you really don't have due process, and I'm not arguing for that. I'm not arguing for some kind of silly rules for soldiers to ask Miranda rights and do all this. War is war. War is hell. But we can't have perpetual war. We can't have war that has no temporal limits, and we can't then have war that is a part of our daily life in our country, that we're going to say from now on in our country you really don't have the protections of the bill of rights. So I think it's -- it's incredibly important. And we have been kind of blase about this whole drone strike program, and it should come home to where we can really think about it because that's what they are asking to do."

What if there's an attack on U.S. soil?

"No one is questioning whether the U.S. can repel an attack. No one is questioning whether your local police can repel an attack. Anybody involved in lethal force, the legal doctrine in our country has always been that the government can repel lethal attacks. The problem is that the drone strike program is often not about combatants. It is about people who may or may not be conspiring but they're not in combat. They're in a car, they're in their house, they're in a restaurant, they're in a cafe. If we're going to bring that standard to America, what I'm doing down here today is asking the president to be explicit. If you're going to have the standard that you're going to kill noncombatants in America, come forward and please say it clearly so we know what we're up against.

"If you're not going to do it, come up with the easy answer, is I'm not going to kill noncombatants. That would have been easy for him to say."

The bipartisan nature of his effort:

"This is the first time that I've decided to come to the floor and speak in a true filibuster. People talk about the filibuster all the time, they say the filibuster is overused and it's abused. A lot of times the filibuster in our country and in the Senate is actually requesting the 60 votes happen and we have to do everything by unanimous consent, so it almost never happens. I've been here two years and I don't think I've seen anybody come to the floor  and speak in an open and spoken filibuster as I am today. I think it is important, though, and I think the issue rises to such an occasion because I think there are a lot of things we disagree on, Republicans and Democrats .... But the reason I came to the floor today to do this is because I think certain things rise above party politics.

"Certain things rise above partisanship. And I think your right to be secure in your person, the right to be secure in your liberty, the right to be tried by a jury of your peers -- these are things that are so important and rise to such a level that we shouldn't give up on them easily. And I don't see this battle as a partisan battle at all of the I don't see this as Republicans versus Democrats.

"I would be here if there were a Republican president doing this.

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Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

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