WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama and Congress need to rethink the broad authority for the use of military force in the war on terror, a law written when many U.S. troops now on the battlefield were on playgrounds, a House Democrat who wants the law repealed said Monday.
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., a member of the House Intelligence committee, plans to introduce legislation on Tuesday to repeal the law, known as the Authorization for the Use of Military Force, by the end of 2014. He linked the timing to when U.S. combat forces will be out of Afghanistan.
"There's a growing bipartisan consensus that the AUMF is outdated and increasingly puts us on a precarious legal footing," Schiff said in an interview. "There's a lot less consensus for what should come after."
Schiff, who may try to add his bill to the sweeping defense policy bill that the House considers this week, said he hopes the administration and Congress spends the next 18 months coming up with an alternative to the law that has given the president extensive power, including the authority to target suspected terrorists with lethal drone strikes.
"A lot of troops that we have on the battlefield now were on playgrounds when the AUMF was written. So it's time," he said.
Days after the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, Congress enacted the Authorization for the Use of Military Force.
The law gave President George W. Bush the authority to launch the invasion of Afghanistan and target al-Qaida, saying the commander in chief has the authority to attack "nations, organizations or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons."
Emerging threats beyond the borders of Afghanistan and the president's use of drone strikes have raised questions about the relevance of a law passed nearly 12 years later.
Schiff is not alone in pressing for a reevaluation of the law. Several senators, including Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Bob Corker, R-Tenn., met privately several weeks ago to discuss revising the law.
In a national security speech last month, President Barack Obama said he wanted to work with Congress on revising the law "to determine how we can continue to fight terrorists without keeping America on a perpetual war-time footing."