Charlie Savage, correspondent for The New York Times and author of “Power Wars,” was a speaker at a recent Heritage Foundation event entitled, “Is it Time for Congress to Pass an ISIS-Specific AUMF?” We thought to highlight one of Savage’s comments. The panelists discussed the implications of potential draft congressional legislation authorizing the president to use force against “associated forces” and “successor organizations” of ISIS (or for that matter, al-Qaida and the Taliban). As Ryan Goodman discusses in a post earlier today, the use of those terms implicates the extent to which this president (and potentially whoever follows him) may use lethal force and detain individuals. But Savage raised an additional point, which is often overlooked–the implications of any AUMF for other areas of national security policy including surveillance. He explained:
The other part of the blank check problem is not just that Congress thought it was authorizing war against al-Qaida in Afghanistan in 9/11 and now it’s being used to fight Shabaab in Somalia and AQAP in Yemen and ISIS in Syria and so forth; that it sort of spread. But there is a history of using that authorization to do all kinds of other things–like have a warrantless surveillance program on domestic soil because the Bush administration decided the AUMF authorized going around FISA. What else could it be used for? This is also part of the blank check anxieties that drive “well, maybe we need to put a lot of limits in it,” and other people are like “we don’t need the limits in,” and it becomes so hard that it’s easier to go with the existing theory that whatever is happening is fine and let’s not open this Pandora’s box. I don’t think that the language the Senator [Todd Young] proposed in and of itself is going to meet those anxieties because it seems so very broad and open ended to me that it will attract alarm.