In advance of President Obama’s address on U.S. counterterrorism policy Thursday at National Defense University, U.S. Senator Bob Corker, (R-Tn.), the ranking Republican member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on Thursday reiterated his call for Congress to have a serious debate about updating the 2001 congressional authorization for use of military force against al Qaeda and its affiliates to address evolving terrorist threats. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has exclusive jurisdiction over the authorization for use of military force.
Senator Corker said, “As the president seeks to change the tempo and scope of the conflict with al Qaeda, it is critical that Congress play an active role in this process, ensuring that the president has the right authorities to keep the nation safe, while also providing policy guidance on how the effort should proceed. Now 12 years removed from the 9/11 attacks, the original authorization is increasingly unrelated to current terrorist threats, so in order to protect the American people from these evolving threats, the administration must remain on firm legal footing provided by Congress. I look forward to continuing discussions with the administration and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for how best to pursue necessary updates to the authorization for use of military force.”
Earlier this year in testimony before the Foreign Relations Committee, counterterrorism officials from both the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations acknowledged the difficulty of applying the 2001 authorization to terrorist groups beyond al-Qaeda.
Michael Leiter, former director of the National Counterterrorism Center under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, said, “[T]he current AUMF is too broad, too narrow and too vague. It’s too broad because…we’re now 12 years later, and I think a lot of people when they voted for it didn’t quite realize that it would still be applying. It’s too narrow because honestly by the end of my tenure in the U.S. government, you [are having] to do some shoehorning to get some groups or individuals in there that posed a very clear and imminent threat to the United States into the language of the AUMF. And it’s too vague, because I think it’s very difficult to look at it and say how would that apply to a group like Jabhat al-Nusra, which the American people and this Congress should know up front.”