Top National Security Lawyers Release Principles to Guide AUMF Debate

Washington, D.C. – Eight of the nation’s most respected national security lawyers today signed on to a statement of principles designed to guide congressional authorization in the continued fight against Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The principles, which advocate for a narrowly-tailored congressional authorization for use of military force (AUMF) specific to the threat posed by ISIS, come off the heels of President Obama’s announcement that he plans to work with congressional leaders on war authorization.

“These six principles are designed to reflect lessons learned from experiences with previous AUMFs; to ensure compliance with domestic and international law; and to strike an effective and appropriate balance of war powers between the political branches,” wrote the signatories of today’s principles. The principles advise that any new AUMF should also include a sunset provision for the 2001 AUMF against al Qaeda and the Taliban.

The signatories of today’s statement include: Rosa Brooks, Professor of Law, Georgetown University Law Center; Sarah H. Cleveland, Louis Henkin Professor of Human and Constitutional Rights, Columbia Law School; Jennifer Daskal, Assistant Professor of Law, American University Washington College of Law; Walter Dellinger, Partner, O’Melveny & Myers LLP; Ryan Goodman, Anne and Joel Ehrenkranz Professor of Law, New York University School of Law; Harold Hongju Koh, Sterling Professor of International Law, Yale Law School; Marty Lederman, Associate Professor of Law, Georgetown University Law Center; and, Stephen I. Vladeck, Professor of Law, American University Washington College of Law.

Today’s statement recommends the following guidelines for any new AUMF in the fight against ISIS:

  • A new AUMF should be ISIS-specific and mission-specific;
  • A new AUMF should include geographic limits;
  • A new AUMF should include a sunset clause on the 2001 AUMF;
  • Congress should repeal the 2002 Iraq AUMF;
  • A new AUMF should ensure that U.S. uses of force are consistent with international law; and,
  • A new AUMF should require greater transparency and congressional oversight.

Human Rights First notes that ISIS is a prime example of how the threat posed by violent extremist groups has changed in recent years. Neither the 2001 nor the 2002 congressional AUMF clearly applies to ISIS. A new, all-encompassing AUMF that does not distinguish ISIS from other terrorist groups or threats around the world is both legally problematic and bad strategy. Last week, Human Rights First called on Congress and the administration to craft a narrowly-tailored AUMF against ISIS.


Published on November 10, 2014


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