UPDATED — 11:53 a.m.
WASHINGTON — Rep. Adam Schiff, a top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, plans to introduce legislation that would curtail or completely eliminate the administration’s rules of war on terrorism, known as the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF).
“Congress never intended to authorize a war without end, and the existing AUMF provides an increasingly precarious legal basis for the use of force against groups uninvolved in 9/11 or unaffiliated with al-Qaeda,” Schiff said in a statement to BuzzFeed on Tuesday.
Schiff’s office has yet to reach out to House leadership to schedule a vote on the pending bill, which could also be introduced as an amendment to the Pentagon’s fiscal year 2015 budget plan currently before Congress.
Additionally, the Senate is quietly considering legislative options that would include changes to the counterterrorism rules as part of their version of the pending Pentagon budget bill.
But Sen. Tim Kaine told BuzzFeed earlier this month that members of the upper chamber were not ready to pull the trigger on an AUMF amendment to the Defense Department’s budget, adding other options — like a stand-alone bill — remain on the table.
Passed in the days immediately after the 9/11 attacks, the law provided the legal groundwork for the administration’s aggressive counterterrorism strategy, from armed drone strikes to “kill/capture” missions, raids similar to the Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden in 2011.
But with the end of the Iraq war and the more than decade-long Afghan war coming to a close, “the current AUMF is out of step with the threats now facing the country,” Schiff said.
It’s incumbent upon Congress to force the question of whether we need an AUMF to continue to pursue terrorist threats, and if so what a new [counterterrorism authority] should look like.”
But Rep. Mike Rogers, head of the House Intelligence Committee, dismissed Schiff’s claims that the rules of war under the AUMF were no longer necessary.
“We cannot wish away the terrorist threats we still face in places like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Yemen, and north Africa,” Rogers said in a statement to BuzzFeed, noting the AUMF remains the best counterterrorism tool to the United States.
While U.S. forces have hammered al-Qaeda’s leadership in Afghanistan and Pakistan in counterterrorism missions justified under the AUMF, the group’s splinter cells in Africa, Asia, and elsewhere pose a new and more difficult threat, according to Rogers.
“That terrorist network has not been defeated, it has only continued to evolve, morph, and expand throughout the world,” he added.
Schiff did not go into details of the pending bill, but it likely will mimic legislation brought by the California Democrat last year, which blocked the Pentagon from spending any funds on any military operations justified under the counterterrorism law.
The measure ran into stiff resistance and was eventually defeated by the full House, with Rogers and other top leaders of the House intelligence and armed services committees lining up against Schiff’s bill.
Other efforts to change or limit the counterterrorism rules included by House Armed Services Committee members into last year’s Pentagon’s budget bill were also stripped out of the final version of the spending legislation by their counterparts in the Senate.
But changing attitudes at the Pentagon over the need for the AUMF in a post-Iraq and Afghanistan world could play into Schiff’s favor this time around.
Michael Lumpkin, the Pentagon’s head of special operations, suggested to lawmakers in March that the Defense Department could be open to revising the rules of war under the AUMF.
While the counterterrorism authorities under the law have “supported the needs of the department in order to execute the missions at hand … I think we’re at an inflection point that may be a time to look at the AUMF to see if it does need adjustment to better serve this country,” he told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
“I look forward to working with the Congress as they consider and shape these issues,” he added at the time.
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