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The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing today on a new Authorization to Use Military Force Against terrorist groups. Kathleen Hicks, former Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, and I were the witnesses. My written statement is here. Kathleen Hicks’ written statement is here.

I closed my opening statement as follows:

Members of Congress have understandable concerns about approving a broad new authorization and extending what many view as a forever war. However, I am convinced that Congress can come together to agree on a new AUMF that provides our military forces the clear legislative authorization and congressional support they need to defend the United States against Al-Qaida, ISIS and other terrorist groups, rather than continuing to rely on a 16-year-old authorization.

I was pleased that there appeared to be a strong bipartisan consensus among the sixteen Senators who attended that the 2001 AUMF needs to be repealed and replaced. We had a fulsome discussion of the value of sunsets; the definition of “associated forces”; geographic limitations; and limits on use of ground forces.

As Bobby Chesney has noted, we also had a brief discussion of the legal basis for the U.S. shootdown of the Syrian fighter plane. I said the following:

I was puzzled about the statements coming out of the Pentagon that the shootdown was authorized by the 2001 AUMF, and I hope that they will clarify that. I think the president may well have Article II authority, constitutionally.

I don't know all the facts. But he may have decided it was in our national interest to shoot down the plane.

But I -- I -- it's hard for me to see that Congress, by authorizing the use of force against organizations and nations and groups that committed the 9/11 attacks, authorized the use of force against Syria.​

John B. Bellinger III is a partner in the international and national security law practices at Arnold & Porter in Washington, DC. He is also Adjunct Senior Fellow in International and National Security Law at the Council on Foreign Relations. He served as The Legal Adviser for the Department of State from 2005–2009, as Senior Associate Counsel to the President and Legal Adviser to the National Security Council at the White House from 2001–2005, and as Counsel for National Security Matters in the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice from 1997–2001.

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