Amash Dear Colleague Letter on Authorization for Use of Military Force
May 25, 2011
Today, the House will begin consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act. Section 1034 of this 920-page bill contains perhaps the broadest authorization for use of military force (AUMF) Congress has ever considered. This monumental legislation will affirmatively and preemptively give the president unprecedented power to launch attacks anywhere in the world, even within the United States. The bipartisan Amash-Lee-Conyers-Jones-Nadler-Paul amendment (No. 50) strikes this provision, and we ask that you stand with us and support this amendment on the floor.
Section 1034 authorizes American military force against a broad and unknown class of persons. Unlike the AUMF Congress passed in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks, the new authorization targets “al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated forces”—an undefined and potentially limitless group. “Associated forces” don’t need to be connected to 9/11. “Associated forces” don’t need to have fought against the United States. “Associated forces” even may include American citizens.
Yet Section 1034 does not stop with “associated forces.” The new authorization green lights American military force against any person who “ha[s] supported hostilities in aid of” an organization that “substantially support[s]” associated forces. An American citizen who donates to a charity that, unbeknownst to him, financially supports an associated force potentially could be targeted by our country’s own military under the new authorization.
Much like Section 1034’s targets, the duration and location of American military force are indefinite. There is no geographical limit to the authorization—force may be used worldwide, at the president’s discretion. The authorization lasts “during the current armed conflict.” The September 11 AUMF was meant to last as long as it took to eliminate or detain those who planned the terrorist attacks. Now that the new authorization gets rid of the 9/11 nexus and expands the current conflict to associated forces, there is no apparent time limit on the use of force.
Finally, Section 1034 authorizes the president to “detain belligerents,” anywhere in the world, at any time, for as long as he chooses. Once again, the new authorization does not define “belligerents.” However, the term merely includes the targets mentioned in the new authorization. That is, the new authorization opens the door for the president to detain “belligerents” who aren’t even listed as targets of force.
Make no mistake: the power we are asked to give the president is beyond the power Congress gave the president in the wake of the largest terrorist attacks in our history. Section 1034 authorizes use of force worldwide, for an indefinite period, against undefined persons who aren’t directly associated with al-Qaeda or the Taliban. And unlike the 9/11 authorization, the President says this expansive authority is not needed to capture terrorists and defeat our enemies.
Support amendment No. 50, and turn back this broad delegation of Congress’ constitutional authority.
Justin Amash Barbara Lee John Conyers
John Garamendi Tom McClintock Jerry Nadler
Ron Paul Walter Jones