John Bellinger on the Need for New Framework Legislation for Counterterrorism

By Robert Chesney
Friday, November 26, 2010, 10:50 AM

John Bellinger argues in today's Washington Post for new framework legislation relating to counterterrorism - that is, for a new statute to supersede the AUMF.  John concludes:

Nearly 10 years after the Sept. 11 attacks, the Obama administration, congressional Republicans and Democrats, and civil liberties groups all have an interest in updating this aging legislation. Republicans should be willing to help the president ensure that combatant commanders and intelligence agencies have ample legal authority to kill or capture terrorists who threaten the United States today. Many Republicans also want to give clearer statutory direction to federal judges regarding who may be detained and for how long. For their part, civil liberties groups and their Democratic supporters in Congress can insist that terrorist suspects who are U.S. nationals receive additional protections before being targeted and that persons detained now or in the future under the laws of war have a right to adequate administrative or judicial review. Congress can and should pass compromise legislation that balances all of these concerns.

The interesting element here is John's appeal to the left to see value, not just danger, in new legislation.  As John points out, the alternative to pursuing new legislation is not a status quo in which we are moving toward the elimination of the use of military force and military detention in favor of the law enforcement model.  Notwithstanding some of the rhetoric from the right in the aftermath of the Ghailani verdict, the Obama Administration is firmly committed to the war model, as illustrated by its robust embrace of drone strikes, its ongoing defense of its detention authority with respect to the GTMO detainees, and its efforts (successfuly thusfar) to fend off the extension of judicial review to Afghanistan.