Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she wasn’t in favor of a specific declaration of war against the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria in Saturday’s Democratic debate, but she muddied the water over the powers of the post-9/11 war authorization against al Qaeda.
Clinton repeated the Obama administration’s assertion that the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force covers the ongoing campaign against ISIS.
“We have an authorization to use military force against terrorists. We passed it after 9/11. It certainly does cover it,” she said. But, in fact, the act only authorizes action against those nations or groups which “planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons.”
The discrepancy is one that has been repeatedly seized upon by congressional critics of executive overreach such as Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, who has supported action against ISIS but has called for the passage of a new, specific authorization for strikes against ISIS.
The Obama administration has relied on a complicated logic to justify its 15-month campaign against ISIS under the 2001 law, though it has called on Congress to amend the legislation—a move Clinton endorsed Saturday.
Here’s how the Obama administration justified using the 2001 AUMF against ISIS in 2014:
With reporting by Tessa Berenson in Washington