White House: US Action in Libya Is Legal

It doesn't amount to 'hostilities' under War Powers Act: Lawyers
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 15, 2011 4:14 PM CDT
President Obama speaks to a group of supporters at a Miami fundraiser Monday.   (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

(Newser) – Moammar Gadhafi might be a little surprised to learn that the US isn't waging war, or even "hostilities," on him. It's all a matter semantics: The White House today said it does not need congressional approval under the War Powers Act to continue because its actions in Libya do not constitute "hostilities." The US contends it is merely in a supporting role to NATO, offering mainly surveillance and refueling help along with the occasional drone missile strike, and that US troops are at almost no risk. "We are acting lawfully," a State Department legal adviser tells the New York Times.

Congress has been pressing the White House to justify its unapproved use of force, the latest action being a lawsuit filed today by 10 lawmakers, including Dennis Kucinich. “We are not saying the president can take the country into war on his own,” said the State Department official. “We are not saying the War Powers Resolution is unconstitutional or should be scrapped, or that we can refuse to consult Congress. We are saying the limited nature of this particular mission is not the kind of ‘hostilities’ envisioned by the War Powers Resolution.” No word yet on whether Congress will accept the explanation.

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