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Rand Paul defends Obama, drone strikes

U.S. Rand Paul (R-KY) speaks at an event hosted by the Iowa GOP Des Moines Victory Office on August 6, 2014 in Urbandale, Iowa.

Scott Olson, Getty Images

Since President Obama announced last week that a U.S.drone strike in January had killed three Americans -- two al-Qaeda operatives and an aid worker being held hostage -- several prominent Republicans have weighed in on the debate. But noticeably silent on the issue was presidential candidate and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul.

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Rand Paul's online store sells "Don't Drone Me, Bro!" shirts

In his first public comments on the strikes, Paul -- so known for his anti-drone stance that his campaign store sells custom "Don't Drone Me, Bro!" t-shirts -- defended the Obama administration and its much-debated drone strike protocol.

"I do think that there is a valuable use for drones," Paul said Monday in a Fox News interview. "And as much as I'm seen as an opponent of drones, I think in military and warfare, they do have some value."

"I think this is a difficult situation," the presidential candidate continued. "You have hostages being held; some of them are American. You have people holding hostages; some of them are American. I've been an opponent of using drones about people not involved in combat."

The Republican presidential candidate suggested using drones in this case was acceptable.

"[I]f you are holding hostages, you kind of are involved in combat," Paul said.

The Obama administration has admitted intelligence failures were responsible for the recent deaths. The White House had said they did not realize an American and Italian national were being held hostage in the compound. Two other Americans who had joined al Qaeda, Ahmed Farouq and Adam Gadahn, were also killed in the strike -- though White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest had said the men were not specifically targeted and that "we did not have information indicating their presence at the sites of these operations."

In 2013, Paul launched a 13-hour filibuster objecting to John Brennan's nomination as director of the Central Intelligence Agency over the use of stealth drone attacks.

He even penned an op-ed in the Washington Post saying that he "wanted everybody to know that our Constitution is precious and no American should be killed by a drone without first being charged with a crime."

"The idea that no person shall be held without due process, and that no person shall be held for a capital offense without being indicted, is a founding American principle and a basic right," Paul had said in the Post.

But war often results in the suspension of those principles. "You really don't get due process or anything like that if you are in a war zone," the Kentucky senator said in the live interview on Fox News.

"I tend not to want to blame the president for the loss of life here. I think he was trying to do the right thing," Paul said.

"These people were in a war zone and probably got what was coming to them -- the captors," Paul added. "Unfortunately some innocent people lost their life."

Paul's comments have already garnered praise from some members of the Republican party.

Likely presidential candidate and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham , who was a known critic in 2013 of Paul's outlook on drone strikes, voiced his support on Twitter of Paul's evolving view on the policy: