During a hearing today on U.S. counterterrorism policies, U.S. Senator Bob Corker, R-Tenn., ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called upon Congress to consider updating the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) against al Qaeda in order to address new and emerging terrorist threats and to better protect the American people and our interests overseas. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has exclusive jurisdiction over the authorization of the use of military force.
"For far too long, Congress has failed to fully exercise its constitutional responsibility to authorize the use of military force, including in the current struggle against al Qaeda, so I urge the committee to consider updating current antiterrorism authorities to adapt to threats that did not exist in 2001 and to better protect our nation while upholding our morals and values. This effort should involve putting in place specific policy guidance for how and when the president can use these authorities, including lethal action and the use of drones, in regular consultation with Congress, so we can restore the appropriate balance of power between the legislative and executive branches of government while maintaining flexibility for the president to respond swiftly under threat of attack," said Corker.
"Since the September 11, 2001 attacks, the threat from al Qaeda and its affiliates has changed dramatically, as the organization has morphed from a centrally-controlled entity headed by Osama Bin Laden to one made up of franchises around the world. As a result, our policy must change to ensure our success in protecting the American people from attack continues. Former counterterrorism officials in both the Bush and Obama administrations have said the current authorities, originally directed at those responsible for 9/11 and groups like the Taliban that harbored them, are increasingly outdated to address new and emerging global terrorist threats. Therefore, we must ensure that Congress has fully granted our government all the tools and capabilities to work with our partners to confront these very real threats to the American people and our interests overseas. I appreciate the chairman's attention to these issues, and I urge him to hold another hearing in the near future to consider reform of our counterterrorism policy, including possible legislation."
The benefits of updating the 2001 authorities were reiterated in testimony from Michael Leiter, former director of the National Counterterrorism Center under both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
Leiter: "I believe bringing greater visibility to some programs could be useful not only to build U.S. support, but also to build greater international understanding if not support--a key element in our ideological efforts. Moreover, I would suggest that the current debate highlights the need to examine seriously the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF). During my tenure at the National Counterterrorism Center, the AUMF provided adequate authority for the use of force, but it was not always a simple or straightforward application. With the continued evolution of the terror threat and most notably its increasing distance from the 9/11 attacks and core al Qa'ida, I believe it is the time to re-evaluate the AUMF to better fit today's threat landscape."
Former Bush administration senior counterterrorism official Kenneth L. Wainstein also testified to the need for reevaluating our counterterrorism policy and the importance of congressional action in establishing legitimacy for military action taken by the president.
Wainstein: "We are now at a pivot point where we need to reevaluate the means and objectives of our counterterrorism program in light of the evolving threat Congressional action has provided one other very important element to our counterterrorism initiatives -- a measure of political legitimacy that could never be achieved through unilateral executive action That legitimizing effect -- and its continuation through meaningful oversight -- is critical to maintaining the public's confidence in the means and methods our government uses in its fight against international terrorism. It also provides assurance to our foreign partners and thereby encourages them to engage in the operational cooperation that is so critical to the success of our combined efforts against international terrorism."
In its second of two hearings on counterterrorism, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee heard bipartisan testimony today from Leiter, Wainstein and former House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Jane Harman, D-Calif. Last week's classified hearing on counterterrorism featured testimony from Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman and National Counterterrorism Center Director Matt Olsen.