Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists
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. 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. As of December 2015, the AUMF remains in effect and provides Congressional authorization for the use of force against ISIS and other Islamic militant groups.
Text of the AUMF
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.
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. Lee was the only member of either house of Congress to vote against the bill.
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. 
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).
Citations in Law
- The AUMF was unsuccessfully cited by the George W. Bush administration in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, 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 AUMF has also been cited by the Department of Justice as authority for engaging in electronic surveillance in ACLU v. NSA without obtaining a warrant of the special Court as required by the constitution.
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.
- War Powers Clause, United States Constitution Art. 1, Sect. 8, Clause 11, which vests in the Congress the exclusive power to declare war.
- The USA PATRIOT Act (2001) and Title II of the Patriot Act, entitled, Enhanced Surveillance Procedures.
- Operation Enduring Freedom
- Targeted killing
- The Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002.
- National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012
- Hedges v. Obama, a lawsuit brought by journalists and activists 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.
- Wong, Scott (13 April 2015). "GOP: Obama war request is dead". The Hill. Retrieved 18 December 2015.
- Polner, Murray (2010-03-01) Left Behind, The American Conservative
- Final Vote Results for Roll Call 342, U.S. House of Representatives. Accessed 7 April 2007.
- "GULF OF TONKIN RESOLUTION". history.com. The History Channel.
- NPR, 4/18/14. Radiolab. "60 Words" In collaboration with Buzzfeed. Reporter, Gregory Johnsen.
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