How 60 Words Created a 'War Without End'
A law approved after 9/11 has greatly expanded the president's powers
By Neal Colgrass, Newser Staff
Posted Jan 19, 2014 10:06 AM CST
This Sept. 11, 2001 file photo shows smoke rising from the burning twin towers of the World Trade Center after hijacked planes crashed into the towers, in New York City.    (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

(Newser) – In the haze of 9/11, lawmakers empowered the US president to fight back—and may have given him more power than they bargained for, writes Gregory Johnsen at BuzzFeed. Congress overwhelmingly approved a 60-word law called the Authorization for the Use of Military Force, which empowered President George W. Bush to retaliate against anyone behind the 9/11 attacks. Interpretation of the law has since expanded to include all military action, including capture and detention, against "associated forces" of the 9/11 attackers. The law "is like a Christmas tree," said a former Bush administration official. "All sorts of things have been hung off of those 60 words."

Johnsen's article looks at the AUMF's tangled history, from its hurried drafting to its 420-1 House vote and its surprising resilience under President Obama—despite his pledge to repeal it. Lawmakers have questioned the AUMF, as Politico reported last year, and now Obama really does plan to kill it off, a top administration official tells the Wall Street Journal. But a dozen years after 9/11, Obama is still ordering drone attacks and secret raids—often against people who were children when the Twin Towers fell. "Let the congressional debate begin," said Rep. Barbara Lee, the one lawmaker who voted against the AUMF. "If people think it's worth it, for whatever reason, then let their member of Congress vote for it. That’s the point." Click for Johnsen's full article.

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Jan 19, 2014 11:02 PM CST
"In a report by the Washington Post yesterday, Congress is further restricting their oversight and transparency authority once again. The Post reports, hidden in the $1 trillion omnibus bill is a provision that would keep the drone program under the jurisdiction of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) instead of shifting it to the Department of Defense (DoD) as the president and now CIA Director John Brennan originally outlined. Not only would shifting the drone program to the DoD allow it to be subject to direct congressional oversight, but it would also put the program in the hands of proper personnel. The CIA over the years has developed into a paramilitary force, which conflicts with its original intent of being an intelligence gathering entity. The president had been discussing how he wanted to shift the program for some time especially given the flack his administration has received regarding “collateral damage” of innocent civilians killed in drone strikes. The Post‘s report stated, “Senior officials, including CIA Director John O. Brennan, have warned that the agency’s emphasis on lethal operations deviates from its traditional mission and could impair its ability to focus on gathering intelligence.”
Jan 19, 2014 10:31 PM CST
All 'causality' is an illusion. AUMF did not come to be "because" of 9/11 - it came to be because no one stood for the integrity of the Constitution and Bill of Rights... the same way the rest of our "Rights" and "Liberties" have been abandoned. "We the People" have elected multiple presidents (and members of both houses), of BOTH parties, who have lied and committed fraud in the pledge to uphold and defend the Constitution, and furthermore we have enabled them to do so. We have for too long accepted the arrangement of allowing Lobbyists greater access to our representatives than the public. We have for too long allowed big-money to influence the candidates who get our votes. The only first step towards recovery is to acknowledge our own culpability in the matter and declare "never again". I doubt very much that this will ever happen en-masse for the American Public.
Jan 19, 2014 10:12 PM CST
So, at the start of Bush's fourth term, what has been accomplished?