Sens. Cardin and Murphy Offer Up Bill to Sunset 2001 AUMF

Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) introduced legislation today to sunset the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) against al-Qaeda. This comes the same week that many Just Security editors contributed to  a letter urging President Obama to include just such a provision in his proposed AUMF for fighting the Islamic State.

Highlights from the proposal include:

  • Termination of the 2001 AUMF in three years;
  • A clear statement that Congress did not intend to authorize a “perpetual war;” and
  • Language implying that the “associated forces” reasoning from the 2001 AUMF that the Bush and Obama Administrations have relied on to carry out various military missions may not address threats from groups unaffiliated with the 9/11 attacks that the 2001 document was written in response to.

You can find the full text of the bill below.

Title: To sunset the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force after three years.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SEC[.] 1. SHORT TITLE.
This Act may be cited as the “Sunset of the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force Act”.

SEC. 2. FINDINGS.
Congress makes the following findings:

(1) On September 11, 2001, the United States and its citizens were victims of the worst terrorist attacks in world history.

(2) The September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks were planned, financed, and executed by al Qaeda, a terrorist organization led by Osama bin Laden.

(3) Al Qaeda was based in Afghanistan throughout the period leading up to the attacks, and the three previous attacks against United States targets, the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the 1998 East Africa bombings, and the 2000 attack on the USS Cole, were planned by al Qaeda central.

(4) From 1996 to 2001, the Taliban government of Afghanistan knowingly harbored al Qaeda, and was complicit in its plots against the United States, and al Qaeda, in turn, supported the Taliban, including sponsoring and training the elite Arab 55th Brigade of the Taliban Army.

(5) Following the September 11, 2001, attacks, Congress passed the Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 107–40; 50 U.S.C. 1541 note) to provide the President with requisite authorization to use “force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 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”.

(6) Congress never intended and did not authorize a perpetual war.

(7) With the withdrawal of United States combat troops from Afghanistan and the transition to Afghan national security forces at the end of 2014, the Authorization for Use of Military Force, which was focused on the September 11th attacks and those directly responsible, will have largely served its purpose.

(8) The homeland and the American people face new threats from individuals, entities, and organizations that may affiliate with al Qaeda, or share its ideology and its determination to attack Americans, but which may not be connected to the September 11, 2001, attacks or those who carried them out to a degree sufficient to be covered by the Authorization for Use of Military Force.

(9) Even after the expiration of the Authorization for Use of Military Force, there is likely to remain the need to defend against specific networks of violent extremists, including al Qaeda and its affiliates, that threaten the United States, and the President must work with the legislative branch to secure whatever new authorities may be required to meet the threat and comply with the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution (50 U.S.C. 1541 et seq.).

SEC. 3. SUNSET OF 2001 AUTHORIZATION FOR USE OF MILITARY FORCE.
The Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 107–40; 50 U.S.C. 1541 note) shall terminate on the date that is three years after the date of the enactment of this Act, unless reauthorized.

Last December, a similar provision passed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and hailed as “welcome news to a wide range of national security law experts” by our own Ryan Goodman, failed to go anywhere in the lame duck Congress.

Also today, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) proposed an Islamic State-related AUMF today that would authorize the President to “use the Armed Forces of the United States as the President determines to be necessary and appropriate against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (“ISIL”) or associated persons or forces.” 

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About the Author(s)

Megan Graham

Former Assistant Managing Editor and Security, Privacy, and Technology Fellow at Just Security Follow her on Twitter (@meganmcgraham).