Kerry Cites Authorization Obama Said He Would Like To See Repealed To Justify Capture of al-Liby

Credit: United States Department of State/wikimediaCredit: United States Department of State/wikimediaSecretary of State John Kerry has said that alleged Al Qaeda leader Abu Anas al-Libi was a “legal and an appropriate target for the U.S. military under the Authorization of the Use of Military Force passed in September 2001.” Kerry's remarks come a few days after al-Libi, who is suspected of masterminding the 1998 attacks against American African embassies, was seized by U.S. Delta Force soldiers supported by FBI and CIA agents in Libya on Saturday. Al-Libi is being questioned aboard a Navy ship in the Mediterranean.

The authorization for the use of military force against those connected to the attacks on 9/11 (AUMF) reads in part:

That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate 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.

Unsurprisingly the AUMF, while intended to authorize the president to target “nations, organizations, or persons” who “planned, authorized, committed, or aided” the attacks on 9/11 has been cited as the justification for military interventions across the world, most recently to capture someone who was allegedly involved in attacks that happened before Sept. 11 2001. The only member of the House of Representatives to vote against AUMF was Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), who in July released a report from the Congressional Research Service on the number of times AUMF has been cited to justify military action abroad. From Rep. Lee’s website:

The report lists 30 instances where the AUMF has invoked by Presidents Bush and Obama, including to deploy troops in Ethiopia, Djibouti, Georgia, and Yemen, justify detentions at Guantanamo Bay, and conduct military commissions.  The data from this report includes information gleaned solely from two publicly available GPO publications: Federal Register and Compilation of Presidential Documents.

As was noted by Reuters, the activities authorized by AUMF have not had much Congressional oversight.

Given that the war in Afghanistan is supposed to be ending next year now seems like a good time to begin the long overdue work on repealing AUMF, something Obama himself expressed support for in a speech at the National Defense University last May:

The AUMF is now nearly 12 years old.  The Afghan war is coming to an end.  Core al Qaeda is a shell of its former self.  Groups like AQAP must be dealt with, but in the years to come, not every collection of thugs that labels themselves al Qaeda will pose a credible threat to the United States.  Unless we discipline our thinking, our definitions, our actions, we may be drawn into more wars we don’t need to fight, or continue to grant Presidents unbound powers more suited for traditional armed conflicts between nation states.

So I look forward to engaging Congress and the American people in efforts to refine, and ultimately repeal, the AUMF’s mandate.  And I will not sign laws designed to expand this mandate further.  Our systematic effort to dismantle terrorist organizations must continue. But this war, like all wars, must end. That’s what history advises. That’s what our democracy demands.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Swiss Servator, Kneel to Zug!||

    RACIST!!! No holding the Lightworker's Administration to His Word.

  • Andrew S.||

    This is obviously the fault of those evil Rethuglicans.

  • Sevo||

    "This is obviously the fault of those evil Rethuglicans."
    They expect treasonous *negotiations*, for pete's sake!

  • Anonymous Coward||

    Isn't that precious? Congress thinks it is a co-equal branch with the Presidency. Don't they know that Barry has a divine mandate from THE PEOPLE and should bow to his every whim?

  • Floridian||

    I would be happy if the president pushed for repeal of the AUMF even if he asked for it to expire at the end of his term. At least the next congress would have to own up to voting for a new AUMF.

  • Pro Libertate||

    And your lies,
    Your lies, your lies.
    They tell me how much you'll dare.
    Ooh yes, it will always be
    My endless war.

  • Aresen||

    But that was when the EVUL Rethuglicans were in power. Now that the RIGHT PEOPLE are in charge, everything is OK.


    On the shutdown front, it now appears that the GOP is bringing in tornados in their plot to destroy the country:

  • Andrew S.||

    F5 headed for Congress and the White House? Is that too much to ask?

  • plusafdotcom||

    Can we crowdsource an F7, please?

  • ||

    It just blows my mind how this guy who was among the biggest yapping critics of Bush is now using what amounts to the same damn rhetoric to catch ter-rists.

    All of a sudden Obama is all for the stuff he hated under Bush.

    Liberals. Can't live with them, pass the beer nuts.


Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.