"This will never happen in the United States of America; this is not permitted in the United States of America," Feinstein said. The federal government has many legal means "to ferret out individuals," Feinstein said. "Drones will never be used in the United States of America, not if I have anything to do with it."
She did leave open the possibility of using military means to strike terrorists in a situation such as Sept. 11, 2001 when "three airliners were hijacked and driven into three large buildings."
Paul said during his marathon speech that if the administration claimed authority to strike terrorists on U.S. soil, it could have targeted nearly any college campus during the 1960s. "Are you going to drop a drone, a Hellfire missile on Jane Fonda?" Paul asked, referring to the actress who was active in the 1960s antiwar movement.
In a letter, Attorney General Eric Holder said that in "extraordinary circumstances," such as the 9/11 attacks or the 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, "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."
Paul relented after Holder assured him in writing, "Does the president have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil? The answer to that question is no."
Feinstein teamed with Paul last year in a failed effort to strip provisions from the defense bill which allow the military to detain indefinitely without trial U.S. citizens suspected of terrorism. Feinstein plans another attempt this year.
Carolyn Lochhead is the San Francisco Chronicle's Washington correspondent.