ACLU Urges Congressional Authorization Before Expansion of Military Activity; Says Use of Force Resolution Didn't Authorize Military Tribunals

April 17, 2002 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union today urged Congress to maintain its oversight function regarding further American military deployments, saying that U.S. soldiers should not be put in harm’s way without specific approval from Congress. The ACLU also said that the legislature has not authorized military tribunals.

“The executive branch has not been given, and under our Constitution cannot be given, a free ride regarding military actions abroad,” said Timothy Edgar, ACLU Legislative Counsel. “Congress’ authorization of force contained limits. The President must take seriously his obligations to Congress before more troops are put in harm’s way.”

A hearing before the Constitution Subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee this afternoon examined the application of the War Powers Act on the current “war on terrorism.” Edgar applauded the subcommittee for its conscientiousness in keeping Congress “in the loop.”

The ACLU said that Congress must be careful not to allow the President to overreach the mandate contained in September’s authorization of force resolution, which only allows the deployment of troops against those connected to the September 11 terrorist attack. Any other military action, the ACLU said, must be authorized by the War Powers Act, the landmark law passed after Presidents Johnson and Nixon escalated the war in Vietnam without specific legislative approval and in defiance of the Constitution’s design.

The War Powers Act requires, among other things, the submission of a report to Congress by the President no later than 48 hours after the introduction of U.S. military forces into open hostilities or situations where hostilities are likely. Upon receipt, the Congress has 60 days to decide whether to authorize the military action. If it does not, the President must withdraw the American forces within an additional 30 days.

The ACLU also said that, in-line with the War Powers Act and other law, Presidential power must be constrained by the legislature and that recent unilateral moves by the Administration, including the decision to implement military tribunals, have not received proper authorization as the Constitution demands.

Consistent with its long-standing policy regarding military action abroad, the ACLU did not endorse or oppose any specific military action.

An ACLU Statement for the Record can be found at:

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