Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists

Authorization for Use of Military Force
Great Seal of the United States
Long titleJoint Resolution to authorize the use of United States Armed Forces against those responsible for the recent attacks launched against the United States
Acronyms (colloquial)AUMF
Enacted bythe 107th United States Congress
EffectiveSeptember 18, 2001
Public lawPub.L. 107–40
Statutes at Large115 Stat. 224
[Actions - S.J.Res.23 - 107th Congress (2001-2002): Authorization for Use of Military Force Legislative history]
  • Introduced in the Senate as S.J.Res.23 by Thomas Daschle on Sept. 14, 2001
  • Passed the Senate on Sept. 14, 2001 (98-0)
  • Passed the House as the H.J.Res.64 on Sept. 14, 2001 (420-1)
  • Signed into law by President George W. Bush on Sept. 18, 2001
United States Supreme Court cases
Hamdan v. Rumsfeld (2006), ACLU v. NSA (2007), Hedges v. Obama (2012)

The Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), Pub. L. 107-40, codified at 115 Stat. 224 and passed as S.J.Res. 23 by the United States Congress on September 14, 2001, authorizes the use of United States Armed Forces against those responsible for the attacks on September 11, 2001 and any "associated forces". The authorization granted the President the authority to use all "necessary and appropriate force" against those whom he determined "planned, authorized, committed or aided" the September 11th attacks, or who harbored said persons or groups. The AUMF was signed by President George W. Bush on September 18, 2001. In December 2016, the Office of the President published a brief interpreting the AUMF as providing Congressional authorization for the use of force against al-Qaeda and other militant groups.[1][2]

The only representative to vote against the Authorization in 2001 was Barbara Lee, who has consistently criticized it since for being a blank check giving the government unlimited powers to wage war without debate.[3] Lee has initiated several attempts to repeal the authorization, but as of 2019 has not been successful. Business Insider has reported that the AUMF has been used to allow military action in Afghanistan, the Philippines, Georgia, Yemen, Djibouti, Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Iraq, and Somalia.[4]

Text of the AUMF


Joint Resolution

To authorize the use of United States Armed Forces against those responsible for the recent attacks launched against the United States.

Whereas, on September 11, 2001, acts of treacherous violence were committed against the United States and its citizens; and

Whereas, such acts render it both necessary and appropriate that the United States exercise its rights to self-defense and to protect United States citizens both at home and abroad; and

Whereas, in light of the threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by these grave acts of violence; and

Whereas, such acts continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States; and

Whereas, the President has authority under the Constitution to take action to deter and prevent acts of international terrorism against the United States: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

Section 1 – Short Title

This joint resolution may be cited as the 'Authorization for Use of Military Force'.

Section 2 – Authorization For Use of United States Armed Forces

(a) IN GENERAL- That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.
(b) War Powers Resolution Requirements-
(1) SPECIFIC STATUTORY AUTHORIZATION- Consistent with section 8(a)(1) of the War Powers Resolution, the Congress declares that this section is intended to constitute specific statutory authorization within the meaning of section 5(b) of the War Powers Resolution.
(2) APPLICABILITY OF OTHER REQUIREMENTS- Nothing in this resolution supersedes any requirement of the War Powers Resolution.

Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Vice President of the United States and

President of the Senate.

Congressional votes

An initial draft of Senate Joint Resolution 23 included language granting the power "to deter and preempt any future acts of terrorism or aggression against the United States." Members were concerned that this would provide "a blank check to go anywhere, anytime, against anyone the Bush administration or any subsequent administration deemed capable of carrying out an attack" and the language was removed.[5]


On September 14, 2001 Senate Joint Resolution 23 passed in the Senate by roll call vote. The totals in the Senate were: 98 Ayes, 0 Nays, 2 Present/Not Voting (Senators Larry Craig, R-ID, and Jesse Helms, R-NC).

House of Representatives

On September 14, 2001 the House passed House Joint Resolution 64. The totals in the House of Representatives were 420 ayes, 1 nay and 10 not voting. The sole nay vote was by Barbara Lee, D-CA.[6] Lee was the only member of either house of Congress to vote against the bill.[7]

Lee opposed the wording of the AUMF, not the action it represented. She believed that a response was necessary but feared the vagueness of the document was similar to the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. The Tonkin act was repealed in 1970 amid discussion of its facilitation of the Vietnam war and its potential to enable a new incursion in Cambodia.[8]

In July 2019, the State Department acknowledged that the administration has not interpreted the 2001 or 2002 Authorizations for Use of Military Force (AUMFs) to authorize military action against Iran, except for defensive purposes to protect forces engaged in operations covered by the AUMFs, something the Obama Administration might have claimed. The acknowledgment is contained in a State Department letter written in response to a request by Representative Eliot Engel, Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Representative Ted Deutch, Chair of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa, and International Terrorism.[9]


Bush administration

The AUMF was unsuccessfully cited by the George W. Bush administration in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld (2006), in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the administration's military commissions at Guantanamo Bay were not competent tribunals as constituted and thus illegal. The Court held that President George W. Bush did not have authority to set up the war crimes tribunals and finding the special military commissions illegal under both military justice law and the Geneva Conventions.

In 2007, the AUMF was cited by the Department of Justice in ACLU v. NSA as authority for engaging in electronic surveillance without obtaining a warrant of the special court as required by the Constitution.

Obama administration

In 2012, journalists and activists brought a suit (Hedges v. Obama) against the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, in which Congress "affirms" presidential authority for indefinite detention under the AUMF and makes specific provisions as to the exercise of that authority.

In 2016, constitutional law specialist professor Bruce Ackerman of Yale Law School said that the Obama Administration's use of the AUMF to that point had overstepped the authorized powers of the final, enacted version of the bill so as to more closely resemble the capabilities named in this draft text rejected by Congress.[10]

Trump administration

On June 29, 2017, a group of libertarian Republicans and Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee approved Barbara Lee's amendment to end the 2001 authorization within 240 days. This would have forced debate on a replacement authorization, but the amendment was removed from the bill by the Rules Committee, and the AUMF remains in effect.[11][12]

In 2018, Senators Tim Kaine and Bob Corker proposed several updates to the AUMF.[13]

In November 2019, the AUMF was supposed to be grounds for the occupation of Kurdish-controlled Syrian oilfields, as the Trump administration sought legal authorization to maintain a presence in the area.[14]

Use by the DOD

The AUMF has also been cited by a wide variety of US officials as justification for continuing US military actions all over the world. Often the phrases "Al-Qaeda and associated forces" or "affiliated forces" have been used by these officials. However, that phrase does not appear in the AUMF, but rather a March 2009 Department of Justice brief as well as the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act.[15]

According to a report by the Congressional Research Service, published May 11, 2016, at that time the 2001 AUMF had been cited 37 times in connection with actions in 14 countries and on the high seas. The report stated that "Of the 37 occurrences, 18 were made during the Bush Administration, and 19 have been made during the Obama Administration." The countries that were mentioned in the report included Afghanistan, Cuba (Guantanamo Bay), Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Georgia, Iraq, Kenya, Libya, Philippines, Somalia, Syria and Yemen.[16]

An updated Congressional Research Service report, published February 16, 2018, documented 2 additional citations of the AUMF by the Obama Administration and 2 citations of the AUMF by the Trump Administration.[17]

In July 2019, Cmdr. Rebecca Rebarich, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said the department "does not believe 2001 AUMF can be used against Iran." That position has been affirmed by the Pentagon's top lawyer, Paul Ney Jr. While Pentagon officials do not deny that al-Qaeda has had ties to Tehran, those links are generally seen as limited and nonoperational. Mick Mulroy, the Pentagon's top policy official for the Middle East, said in a statement that neither he nor Katie Wheelbarger, another senior Pentagon policy official, raised al-Qaeda's links to Iran—or the AUMF—during a classified congressional briefing on Iran.[18] "The historical and ongoing ties between Iran and the Taliban, not al-Qaeda, were raised at the briefing," Mulroy said.[citation needed]

See also


  1. ^ "Report on the Legal and Policy Frameworks Guiding the United States' Use of Military Force and Related National Security Operations" (PDF). The White House. Retrieved 2 February 2017.
  2. ^ Wong, Scott (13 April 2015). "GOP: Obama war request is dead". The Hill. Retrieved 18 December 2015.
  3. ^ Herb, Jeremy; Walsh, Deirdre. "House panel votes to repeal war authorization for fight against ISIS and al Qaeda". CNN. Retrieved 14 August 2017.
  4. ^ Woody, Christopher. "Congress may repeal the post-9/11 act the US military used to justify the fight against ISIS". Business Insider. Retrieved 14 August 2017.
  5. ^ Erik, Luna; McCormack, Wayne (2015), Understanding the Law of Terrorism, New Providence, New Jersey: LexisNexis, p. 413, ISBN 9780769849072, OCLC 893668978
  6. ^ Polner, Murray (2010-03-01) Left Behind, The American Conservative
  7. ^ Final Vote Results for Roll Call 342, U.S. House of Representatives. Accessed 7 April 2007.
  8. ^ "GULF OF TONKIN RESOLUTION". history.com. The History Channel.
  9. ^ "Unpacking the State Dept Acknowledgment that 2001 and 2002 AUMFs Don't Authorize War Against Iran". Just Security. July 3, 2019.
  10. ^ Mian, Rashed (2016-09-14). "2001 AUMF: The Controversial Truth Behind America's Never-Ending War". Long Island Press. Morey Publishing, LLC. Archived from the original on 2016-10-11. Retrieved 2016-10-11.
  11. ^ Desiderio, Andrew (2017-06-29). "House Committee Approves Repeal of 2001 Military Authorization". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 2017-07-20.
  12. ^ Bertuca, Tony (2017-07-19). "UMF repeal stripped from defense appropriations bill". Inside Defense. Retrieved 2017-07-21.
  13. ^ Friedersdorf, Conor (12 June 2018). "Senators Propose Legislation To Update Authorities Used To Fight Terror Abroad". The Atlantic. Retrieved 14 June 2018.
  14. ^ "Trump approves wider Syria oil-protection mission, raising questions on whether U.S. troops can launch strikes in region". The Globe and Mail Inc. Associated Press. 5 November 2019.
  15. ^ NPR, 4/18/14. Radiolab. "60 Words" In collaboration with Buzzfeed. Reporter, Gregory Johnsen.
  16. ^ Matthew Weed (May 11, 2016). "Congressional Research Service Report" (PDF). Congressional Research Service. Retrieved July 21, 2017.
  17. ^ Matthew Weed (February 16, 2018). "Congressional Research Service Report" (PDF). Congressional Research Service. Retrieved June 19, 2019.
  18. ^ DeYoung, Karen; editor, closeKaren DeYoungAssociate; Pentagon, senior national security correspondentEmailEmailBioBioFollowFollowMissy Ryan closeMissy RyanReporter covering the; Issues, Military; securityEmailEmailBioBioFollowFollow, national. "Trump administration lays broad legal grounds for military strike on Iran". Washington Post.

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