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Alan Grayson Knocks Down AUMF As 'Blank Check' For President

Rep. Alan Grayson questioned a panel of experts about the language in Obama's AUMF and determined that it's written in such a way that it gives any president a black check.

Rep. Alan Grayson questioned a panel of experts about the language in Obama's AUMF and determined that it's written in such a way that it gives any president a blank check.

GRAYSON: Thank you. Section 2C of the president’s draft authorization for the use of military force reads as follows:The authority granted in subsection A does not authorize the use of US armed forces in enduring offensive ground combat operations. Ambassador Jeffrey, what does ‘enduring’ mean?

JEFFREY: My answer would be a somewhat sarcastic one. Whatever the executive at the time defines enduring as, and I have a real problem with that.

Rep. Grayson was not being sarcastic when he asked these important questions. The panel composed of Ambassador Jeffrey, Rick Brennan and Dafna Rand, could only guess at what words like "enduring" and "alongside ISIL" meant in the draft.

After almost six minutes of prodding Grayson came away with this:

Grayson: Dr. Brennan I think you just described a blank check which I'm not willing to give the president or anybody else.

Alan Grayson is taking a stand against another US military action in the middle east.

Here's a rough transcript of the session.

GRAYSON: Thank you. Section 2C of the president’s draft authorization for the use of military force reads as follows:The authority granted in subsection A does not authorize the use of US armed forces in enduring offensive ground combat operations. Ambassador Jeffrey, what does ‘enduring’ mean?

JEFFREY: My answer would be a somewhat sarcastic one. Whatever the executive at the time defines enduring as, and I have a real problem with that.

GRAYSON: Dr. Brennan?

Brennan: I have real problems with that also. Not only because it’s… I don’t know what it means. I can just see the lawyers fighting over the meaning of this. But more importantly, if you’re looking at committing forces for something that you are saying is either vital, or important interest of the United States, and you get in the middle of a battle, and all of a sudden are you on offense, or are you on defense? What happens if neighbors cause problems? Wars never end the way that they were envisioned. And so I think that that’s maybe a terrible mistake to put in the AUMF.


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GRAYSON: Dr. Rand?

Rand: Enduring, in my mind, specifies an open-endedness, it specifies lack of clarity on the particular objective at hand.

GRAYSON: Dr. Rand, is two weeks enduring?

RAND: I would leave that to the lawyers to determine exactly.

GRAYSON: So, your answer is you don’t know, right? How about two months?

RAND: I don’t know. Again, I think it would depend on the particular objective, enduring in my mind is not having a particular military objective in mind.

GRAYSON: So you don’t really know what it means. Is that a fair statement?

RAND: Enduring in my mind means open ended.

GRAYSON: Alright, section five of the draft of the authorization of the use of military force reads as follows: In this resolution the term associated persons or forces means individuals and organizations fighting for, on behalf of, or alongside ISIL, or any closely-related successor entity in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners. Ambassador Jeffrey, what does “alongside ISIL” mean?

JEFFREY: I didn’t draft this thing. But,

GRAYSON: Nor did I.

JEFFREY: Nor did you, but I would have put that in there if I had been drafting it, and the reason is, I think they went back to 2001, of course this is the authorization we’re still using, along with the 2002 one for this campaign, and these things morph. For example, we’ve had a debate over whether ISIS is really a element of Al Qaeda; it certainly was when I knew it as Al Qaeda in Iraq in 2010 to 2012, and these semantic arguments confuse us and confuse our people on the ground, in trying to deal with these folks. You’ll know it when you see it if it’s an ISIS or it’s an ally of ISIS.

GRAYSON: How about the Free Syrian Army, are they fighting alongside ISIL in Syria?

Jeffrey: No, they’re not fighting alongside ISIL, in fact often they’re fighting against ISIL, and ISIL against them in particular.

GRAYSON: What about Assad, is he fighting for or against? It’s kind of hard to tell without a scorecard, isn’t it?Jeffrey: It sure is.

GRAYSON: Yeah. What about you Dr. Brennan, can you tell me what “alongside ISIL” means?

Brennan: No, I really couldn’t. I think that what, you know, it might be… the 9/11 Commission uses the phrase “radical islamist organizations” and I think maybe if we went to a wording like that, it includes all those 52 groups that adhere to this type of ideology, that threaten the United States. But we’re putting ourselves in boxes and as you said Sen… Congressman, I’m trying to understand what that means, what the limits are… who we’re dealing with, it’s very confusing.

GRAYSON: Dr. Rand.

RAND: Well, first of all, I believe that the confusion is probably a function of the fact that this is an unclassified document, so it’s not going to specify exactly which groups are considered associates; that would be for a classified setting. But second, as I said in the testimony, the nature of the alliances within ISIL are changing and are fluid, and those who are targeting, the military experts, know exactly who is a derivative, or an associate, or an ally of ISIS at any given moment.

GRAYSON: Why are you so confident of that? It seems to me that it’s a matter of terminology, not a matter of ascertainable fact.

RAND: Based on my public service. I’ve seen some of the lawyers (?) and some of the methodologies, and—(cut off)

GRAYSON: Okay. Here’s the $64 billion question for you, Ambassador Jeffrey, and if we have time, for you others. If you can’t tell us, you three experts can’t tell us what these words mean, what does that tell us? Ambassador Jeffrey.

JEFFREY: That it’s very difficult to be using a tool basically designed to declare war or something like war on a nation-state, which has a fixed definition, against a group that morphs, that changes its name, that has allies, and other things. Do we not fight it? We have to fight it. Are we having a hard time defining it? You bet.

GRAYSON: Dr. Brennan?

BRENNAN: I’d agree with the ambassador. I think the issue we that need to be looking at is trying to broaden terminology and understand that it is a tenet, or organizations and groups that adhere to this ideology, and make it broad enough that if one pops up in a different country that is doing the same thing, that is a sister of this organization, the President has the authority to act.

GRAYSON: Dr. Brennan, I think you just described a blank check, which I’m not willing to give to the President or anybody else. But thank you for your time.

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