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June 13, 2016

Summary of ISIS AUMF Proposals

Recently, there have been renewed calls for Congress to pass an Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and several members of Congress have released proposals for a new law. To ensure that the United States is empowered to counter the terrorist threat while upholding the rule of law and maintaining global legitimacy, Human Rights First recommends that any authorization to use force against ISIS satisfy the “Principles to Guide Congressional Authorization of the Continued Use of Force Against ISIL.”  These principles have garnered bipartisan support and articulate a prudent approach to drafting an effective ISIS AUMF.

To satisfy these principles, any new AUMF should:

  • Clearly define the mission objectives and the enemy;
  • Include robust reporting and transparency requirements sufficient to keep both Congress and the public informed;
  • Require compliance with U.S. obligations under international law;
  • Clarify that the authorization is the sole source of statutory authority to use force against ISIS to prevent confusion or overlap; and
  • Set a sunset date for both the new ISIS AUMF and for the 2001 AUMF to ensure continued congressional support for the use of force as the conflict evolves.

This document charts the extent to which the most prominent ISIS AUMF proposals are in line with these recommendations. The proposals included in this analysis are those by President Obama; Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (whose proposal is the same as that introduced by Senator Lindsey Graham); Senators Jeff Flake and Tim Kaine (whose proposal is the same as that introduced by Representatives Scott Rigell and Peter Welch); Representative Adam Schiff; the proposal passed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; and the proposal published on the Lawfare blog and co-authored by Benjamin Wittes, Robert Chesney, Jack Goldsmith, and Matthew Waxman.