There can be no doubt that the AUMF signed by George W. Bush in 2001 has fundamentally changed America... for the worse -- in many profoundly ugly ways. It's repeal is absolutely imperative to change the direction of both our foreign and domestic policy. Apparently, Representative Adam Schiff (D-Cal) agrees with that assertion. But since the law's repeal is politically untenable right now, Rep. Schiff`has instead called for the next best thing -- a sunset provision. A bill is in the works.
The president's speech yesterday called for a gradual ramping down of the war on terror and subsequently it's eventual conclusion. It's the first time since 2001 that a POTUS has even suggested an end in sight for the decade-plus, multi-fronted military action in foreign countries. Even though the details of the president's proposal remain vague and non-specific, it's bound to be a conversation starter both in Congress and Main Street.
And that's a good thing.
Schiff is a member of the House Intelligence committee.
Wired.com's Danger Room has the (exclusive) story:.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) is preparing a piece of legislation that would “sunset” the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF), a foundational law passed in the days after the 9/11. “The current AUMF is outdated and straining at the edges to justify the use of force outside the war theater,” Schiff tells Danger Room.Schiff is no flaming liberal. He's widely considered a moderate. But it's becoming clearer by the day to reasonable congress critters from all over the country that the fight against terrorism has to be conducted in a more restrictive, Constitutional way with heightened concerns for civil rights and liberties at home, and basic sovereign and human rights abroad. He's certainly not alone in this quest. His fellow California congressional Representative Barbara Lee has fought long and hard against this broad extension of executive authority, having been the only legislator to vote against the original bill back in 2001.
Repealing the AUMF would be the boldest restriction of presidential war powers since 9/11. Both the Bush and Obama administrations have relied on the document to authorize everything from the warrantless electronic surveillance of American citizens to drone strikes against al-Qaida offshoots that did not exist on 9/11. Getting rid of it is certain to invite fierce opposition from more bellicose members of Congress, who have repeatedly demagogued efforts to roll back any post-9/11 wartime authority, let alone the most important one.
Even tea party congress critters like Senator Rand Paul (R-Ken.) and Senator Mike Lee (R-Ut.) have called for a rollback of the far-reaching law. Even though overall momentum is mounting in Congress, any challenge to the law will still face significant resistance from other more hawkish congress critters at both ends of the Capitol. `
Especially diehard neocons and pathetic MIC sycophants like Senator John McCain of Arizona and Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.
More from Wired.com:
Schiff thinks that the end of the U.S. combat mission in Afghanistan in 2014 ought to occasion the end of the AUMF, and his bill would use the Afghanistan drawdown as a hinge point. He openly admits to being unsure whether Congress should pass a follow-on piece of legislation allowing the president a limited version of his war powers, or what those post-Afghanistan powers might appropriately be.Prior to this effort, Congress tried to re-examine this issue back in 2010. But that time, the intent was different. After the GOP's electoral successes, the incoming chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Bud McKeon a Republican of California had argued that it was time for a new version of the bill. McKeon contended that the Obama administration lacked legal authority to combat the contemporary versions of al-Qaida located in Yemen and East Africa. He argued that only about one-half of his colleagues at the time had even served in Congress long enough to have had voted on the expansive and open-ended executive war powers. McKeon's efforts stalled and soon failed altogether. At the time, given the new GOP majority in the House, the Obama administration quickly informed McKeon's committee that it wasn't interested in revisiting the AUMF.
The U.S.’s counterterrorism “architecture is becoming increasingly unsustainable,” Schiff says, “but I have only a less clear idea of what should follow.” Schiff, a moderate, is still in the early drafting stage of the bill and doesn’t yet have a timeline for introducing it. But the animating idea behind it is that Obama ought to come back to Congress to outline what war powers are necessary, so legislators can go on record blessing or rejecting the next phase of the war on terrorism.
The 2001 AUMF was “sufficient to address the existing threats that I’ve seen,” Jeh Johnson, then the Pentagon’s senior lawyer, testified in March 2011.President Obama subsequently made his position perfectly clear in the speech given at the National Defense University. But also went further by endorsing at the same time the eventual repeal of the law that he has heavily relied upon to conduct his overall foreign policy.
Formally, Johnson didn’t really explain how a law that was about avenging 9/11 actually allowed Obama to take military action against, say, al-Shebab. But Johnson didn’t make the administration’s real reasons for opposing the AUMF explicit. It was worried that congressional Republicans would write a bill expanding presidential authority to attack terrorist groups unrelated to al-Qaida, something that would expand a global war that the administration was internally growing skeptical about.
“I look forward to engaging Congress and the American people in efforts to refine, and ultimately repeal, the AUMF’s mandate,” Obama said. “And I will not sign laws designed to expand this mandate further. Our systematic effort to dismantle terrorist organizations must continue. But this war, like all wars, must end.”Well said, Mr. President.
For a peek into what the opposition might look like in coming days, Besides the neocons in Congress, the U.S. military is also expected to push back on any effort to reign in the law.
That’s a position that may not sit well with the U.S. military. During a Senate hearing last week, generals from the Joint Staff and senior Pentagon civilians argued that the AUMF was a necessary law that should remain in place — unchanged. The position satisfied neither Democratic and Independent critics who saw it as a blank check for war nor Republican critics who considered it too restrictive to fight 2013-era terrorism.
The Pentagon's all right with perpetual war. Who knew?
And cue the staff at Rep. McKeon's office:
“The chairman is far from convinced that’s the direction we need to go,” says an aide to McKeon’s committee. “We need to reaffirm our authority with respect to those [al-Qaida] affiliated groups.” What’s more, Obama’s willingness to “ultimately repeal” the AUMF runs right smack into his codification of a more limited counterterrorism war lasting for years. At the National Defense University, Obama simultaneously talked about a longer war and removing his own authorities for waging it.Nevertheless, Schiff sees this as an opportunity.
“There’s probably bipartisan support for the idea that the existing AUMF is ill-suited to the nature of the threats we face now,” he says. But there’s “probably bipartisan opposition to what would come after,” both from the left and right. Schiff thinks that disagreement means a congressional debate about the future of presidential authority against terrorism is overdue. He intends to kick start one.Props to Representative Schiff!
He's gonna need our support.