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Lawmakers Consider Limiting President's Power to Fight Terrorism

Image: Lawmakers Consider Limiting President's Power to Fight Terrorism Protesters on May 23 stand outside Fort McNair in Washington, D.C., next to a model of a drone during a demonstration calling for an end to targeted killings.

By Melanie Batley   |   Friday, 31 May 2013 10:25 AM

House lawmakers are considering a change to the current rules governing the scope of counterterrorism operations, a move that may limit the power of the president and defense agencies to target individuals or groups with loose ties to al-Qaida.

According to The Hill, members of the House Armed Services Committee have drafted new language related to the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) that would require the Pentagon to be more specific about threats posed by "associated forces" before targeting them with counterterrorism measures such as "kill and capture" missions and drone strikes.

The proposed changes follow President Barack Obama's comments last week that he believes changes need to be made to the current rules for the war on terror.

"I look forward to engaging Congress and the American people in efforts to refine, and ultimately repeal, the AUMF's mandate," Obama said May 23 in an address at the National Defense University at Fort McNair in Washington.

"Unless we discipline our thinking and our actions, we may be drawn into more wars we don't need to fight, or continue to grant presidents unbound powers more suited for traditional armed conflicts between nation states," he said.

But opponents to a change in the current rules say the move could ultimately weaken American efforts to stamp out terror threats which have spread beyond direct links to al-Qaida.

"At this point we're comfortable with the AUMF as it is currently structured. Right now it does not inhibit us from prosecuting the war against al-Qaida and its affiliates," Michael Sheehan, head of special operations and low-intensity conflicts at the Pentagon, said during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing earlier this month.

Other lawmakers, including Sen. John McCain, also are concerned about changing current policy.

"To somehow think we can bring the [AUMF] to a complete closure contradicts the reality of the facts on the ground," the Arizona Republican said shortly after Obama's speech a week ago. "Al-Qaida will be with us for a long time."

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