Campaign 2012

Mitt Romney on Updating the AUMF

By Jack Goldsmith
Friday, October 7, 2011, 1:36 PM

Today the Romney campaign issued a White Paper on Foreign Policy and National Defense.  I have only had time to skim it, but this passage stood out as of particular interest to Lawfare readers:

Update the AUMF: The chief source of statutory authority for the war on terrorism — the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) passed by Congress shortly after the attack of September 11, 2001 — is only a few sentences long, its language is quite general, and it has not been updated since its enactment. While the statute clearly authorizes force against al Qaeda and the Taliban, it does not directly address what other groups might also be covered. Recent administrations have interpreted the AUMF expansively to include those who substantially support forces associated with al Qaeda and the Taliban, but as more time passes, the connections between those two groups and the terror threats we face will become more and more attenuated. These new terror groups — like al-Shabaab in Somalia — may share al Qaeda’s ideological objectives but lack close operational ties with the larger network. This leaves our counterterror forces to operate in a legal limbo, possibly hamstringing them when they should enjoy the full freedom of action and deserve the full protection of law. Romney will work with Congress to clarify this portion of the AUMF, amending it to authorize the use of force against any foreign terrorist entity that is waging war against the United States.

This passage, understandably, does not tell us what it means for a terrorist entity to “wage war” against the United States, and there are of course many hard questions buried in those two words.  Those are the questions of governing, however, not campaigning, and the signal this sends is that a President Romney would support renewed and expanded AUMF authority.