ACLU Says Military Action in Kosovo Violates Constitution and War Powers Act

April 28, 1999 12:00 am

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Wednesday, April 28, 1999

WASHINGTON — The American Civil Liberties Union today said that the military action in Kosovo ordered by President Clinton violates the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution because it was not authorized by Congress.

In a letter sent to House Speaker Dennis Hastert, the ACLU applauded Rep. Thomas Campbell, R-CA, who has invoked the procedures in the War Powers Resolution to force debate on the use of force in Kosovo. Both of the resolutions introduced by Rep. Campbell, however, are expected to fail.

“It is essential,” the letter said, “that congressional approval be sought before more troops are committed.”

Congress is also expected to consider two other pieces of legislation, S. Con. Res. 21, which passed the Senate on March 23, and H.R. 1659. But the ACLU said that neither would satisfy the requirements of the War Powers Resolution.

“Launching a sustained military action is a decision that no one person in our democracy — including the President — can authorize,” said ACLU Legislative Counsel Gregory T. Nojeim, adding that the ACLU takes no position on the merits of the use of force in Kosovo.

Congress adopted the War Powers Resolution in 1973 to ensure that U.S. troops are not sent into hostilities without Congressional authorization, except in cases where a national emergency is created by attack upon the United States.

“It is a power that the framers specified would be shared by Congress and the President,” Nojeim added, noting that Article I, Section 8, Clause 11 of the Constitution grants to Congress “the power to declare war [and] grant letters of marque and reprisal.” Under the Constitution, Congress is given the ultimate decision as to whether to use force; the President’s power is limited to decisions on how to use the military after Congress has authorized the President to act.

Section 2(c) of the War Powers Resolution states that the President has constitutional authority to “introduce United States Armed Forces into hostilities, or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances, … only pursuant to (1) a declaration of war, (2) specific statutory authorization, or (3) a national emergency created by an attack upon the United States. …”

The ACLU’s letter on the War Powers Resolution can be found at:

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