Greg Miller and Karen DeYoung have this important story in the Washington Post: “Administration Debates Stretching 9/11 Law To Go After New al-Qaeda Offshoots.” It cites unnamed Administration officials as concerned that “[a] new generation of al-Qaeda offshoots is forcing the Obama administration to examine whether the legal basis for its targeted killing program can be extended to militant groups with little or no connection to the organization responsible for the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.” According to the story, although the government has been able to rely on the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force as the basis for counter-terrorism operations, including lethal targeting, in places such as Pakistan and Yemen, “U.S. officials said administration lawyers are increasingly concerned that the law is being stretched to its legal breaking point, just as new threats are emerging in countries including Syria, Libya and Mali.”
The issues raised in this story — the evolving nature of terrorism threats and the risks of various legal options for confronting those threats — are the basis of a recent Hoover Institution paper by Bobby, Jack, Ben, and me: A Statutory Framework for Next-Generation Terrorist Threats. Drawing on lessons from the past decade, we explain why the AUMF is increasingly obsolete and why the nation will probably need a new legal foundation for next-generation terrorist threats. We outline options for this new legal foundation and offer a recommendation for a new statutory framework.