August 30, 2013

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: 212-549-2666, media@aclu.org

WASHINGTON – In a letter sent to the White House today, the American Civil Liberties Union urged President Obama to refrain from initiating military action in Syria until Congressional votes have occurred in both chambers, authorizing such use of military force.

While the ACLU does not take a position on whether military force should be used, the organization has consistently insisted, from the war in Vietnam through both wars in Iraq, that Congress give advance authorization for the use of such force.

“Before any decisions are made regarding U.S. military action, the president, according to our Constitution, must obtain congressional authorization for use of any military force,” said ACLU Washington Legislative Office Director Laura W. Murphy. “Mere consultation between the White House and certain congressional leaders does not provide sufficient authority to the president to unilaterally use any military force. Floor debate should commence as soon as possible and certainly no later than the date on which Congress reconvenes.”

“Use of military force by the administration in Syria in the absence of congressional action would strike at the very heart of the fundamental principle of separation of powers that is at the core of the Constitution,” says the letter, signed by Murphy.

Also included in the letter:

“Chief Justice Marshall made clear, as early as 1801, that the Executive Branch did not have the power to decide whether the country will use military force. In a series of cases involving the seizure of vessels during an undeclared naval war with France, the Supreme Court made clear that Congress, not the President, was the ultimate repository of the power to authorize military force. As Marshall made clear, “The whole powers of war being, by the constitution of the United States, vested in congress, the acts of that body can alone be resorted to as our guides in this inquiry.”

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