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Corker calls for more congressional oversight of drone strikes

Senate Foreign Relations Committee ranking Republican Bob Corker (R-TN) Wednesday added his name to the growing list of senators who want to change the law to boost congressional oversight of drone strikes and targeted killings by the U.S. government.  Corker called for Congress to update the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) at ...

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Senate Foreign Relations Committee ranking Republican Bob Corker (R-TN) Wednesday added his name to the growing list of senators who want to change the law to boost congressional oversight of drone strikes and targeted killings by the U.S. government. 

Corker called for Congress to update the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) at a Wednesday hearing and said that he wants the SFRC to take the lead on revising the law that was passed in the wake of the original 9/11 attacks. He prodded SFRC Chairman Bob Menendez (D-NJ) to hold a hearing on the issue and consider marking up legislation in their committee.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee ranking Republican Bob Corker (R-TN) Wednesday added his name to the growing list of senators who want to change the law to boost congressional oversight of drone strikes and targeted killings by the U.S. government. 

Corker called for Congress to update the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) at a Wednesday hearing and said that he wants the SFRC to take the lead on revising the law that was passed in the wake of the original 9/11 attacks. He prodded SFRC Chairman Bob Menendez (D-NJ) to hold a hearing on the issue and consider marking up legislation in their committee.

"For far too long, Congress has failed to fully exercise its constitutional responsibility to authorize the use of military force, including in the current struggle against al Qaeda, so I urge the committee to consider updating current antiterrorism authorities to adapt to threats that did not exist in 2001 and to better protect our nation while upholding our morals and values," Corker said. 

Congress should amend the law to specify exactly how and when the president can use drones and kill or capture missions to kill people and Congress must "restore the appropriate balance of power between the legislative and executive branches of government while maintaining flexibility for the president to respond swiftly under threat of attack," Corker said.

Michael Leiter, former director of the National Counterterrorism Center under both presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, urged the committee to revise the 2001 AUMF in testimony before the committee. 

With the continued evolution of the terror threat and most notably its increasing distance from the 9/11 attacks and core al Qaeda, I believe it is the time to re-evaluate the AUMF to better fit today’s threat landscape," Leiter said.

Former Bush administration senior counterterrorism official Kenneth L. Wainstein also testified that congressional oversight and transparency were necessary to bring legitimacy to the covert programs. 

"Congressional action has provided one other very important element to our counterterrorism initiatives — a measure of political legitimacy that could never be achieved through unilateral executive action," he said. "That legitimizing effect — and its continuation through meaningful oversight — is critical to maintaining the public’s confidence in the means and methods our government uses in its fight against international terrorism."

Wednesday’s hearing was a follow-up to a classified hearing on counterterrorism last week that included testimony from Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman and National Counterterrorism Center Director Matt Olsen

The issue of using military force to kill Americans on U.S. soil was front and center in Congress earlier this month and featured both in Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul‘s March 6 filibuster of CIA Director John Brennan and a March 6 hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee with Eric Holder, during which the attorney general said clearly that the targeting of Americans for killing on U.S. soil, in absence of an immediate threat, would be unlawful.

Corker’s Wednesday announcement included an assertion that the SFRC, not the Judiciary Committee, has "exclusive jurisdiction" over any efforts to change the AUMF.

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

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