ACTION ALERT: No US Drone Strikes in Mali Without Congressional Approval
January 17, 2013
Just Foreign Policy & The Washington Post
France has undertaken a major military campaign in Mali. US officials are talking about the possibility of supporting the French military campaign with US drone strikes. Congress hasn't authorized US military intervention in Mali. In particular, Congress hasn't authorized US drone strikes in Mali. Urge your Representative and Senators to publicly insist that the Administration obtain explicit Congressional authorization before conducting drone strikes in Mali.
ACTION ALERT: No US Drone Strikes in Mali Without Congressional Approval
Robert Naiman, Chelsea Mozen, Sarah Burns and Megan Iorio / Just Foreign Policy
(January 16, 2013) -- France has undertaken a major military campaign in Mali. US officials are talking about the possibility of supporting the French military campaign with US drone strikes. Congress hasn't authorized US military intervention in Mali. In particular, Congress hasn't authorized US drone strikes in Mali.
Urge your Representative and Senators to publicly insist that the Administration obtain explicit Congressional authorization before conducting drone strikes in Mali.
The Washington Post reports: 
[A senior US] official said contingency plans for the use of armed drones were already in place and are being reevaluated.
Without explicit Congressional authorization, the only US legal authority the Administration could claim for conducting drone strikes in Mali is the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force passed after the September 11 attacks.
This is the legal authority the Administration has invoked for conducting drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. The invocation of the 2001 AUMF to justify drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia is already very controversial. The invocation of the 2001 AUMF to justify drone strikes in Mali should be even more controversial.
Indeed, on November 1, the Washington Post editorial board, which supports the drone strike policy overall, and believes that US drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen are legal overall, wrote: 
The Post's reporting suggests that the administration is ... contemplating the use of drones in more countries where jihadist forces are active, including Libya and Mali. This raises new legal and political quandaries. The further -- in geography, time and organizational connection -- that the drone war advances from the original al-Qaeda target in Afghanistan, the less validity it has under the 2001 congressional authorization … most of the world is unlikely to accept an argument that the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks justify drone strikes more than a decade later in Northern Africa.
The Washington Post now notes that US support for France's military campaign could "test US legal boundaries"; that direct US military aid to Mali is "forbidden under US law because the weak rump government there seized power in a coup"; and that some fighters who may be targeted by France are "longtime foes of the Malian government and pose no direct threat to US interests"  - thus, they have nothing to do with the September 11 attack and therefore the 2001 AUMF can't be invoked to justify attacking them.
If the Administration conducts drone strikes in Mali without new Congressional authorization, it would be a major setback both for efforts to bring accountability and transparency to the drone strike program and to efforts to protect Congressional authority to decide when the United States goes to war. We have a responsibility to try to draw a line in the sand in front of expansion of the drone war to Mali.
TAKE ACTION: Urge your Representative and Senators to speak up.
I urge you to obtain explicit Congressional authorization before conducting any US drone strikes in Mali. Failure to do so would constitute a violation of the War Powers Resolution.
I urge you to resist calls to invoke the 2001 Authorization of Military Force to claim that US military action in Mali has been authorized by Congress. As the Washington Post noted in a November 1 editorial, "The further -- in geography, time and organizational connection -- that the drone war advances from the original al-Qaeda target in Afghanistan, the less validity it has under the 2001 congressional authorization … most of the world is unlikely to accept an argument that the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks justify drone strikes more than a decade later in Northern Africa."
As the Washington Post recently noted, some of the "militants" likely to be targeted in the French military campaign are "longtime foes of the Malian government and pose no direct threat to US interests," and therefore they had nothing to do with the September 11 attack and cannot be targeted under the 2001 AUMF. Furthermore, as the Post noted, US military aid to the "weak rump government" in Mali is prohibited under US law because that government seized power in a coup.
1. "US weighs military support for France's campaign against Mali militants," Anne Gearan, Karen DeYoung and Craig Whitlock, Washington Post, January 15, 2013 http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/us-weighs-military-support-for-frances-campaign-against-mali-militants/2013/01/15/a071db40-5f4d-11e2-b05a-605528f6b712_story.html
2. "Pulling the US drone war out of the shadows," Editorial, Washington Post, November 1, 2012, http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2012-11-01/opinions/35503416_1_drone-attacks-drone-strikes-qaeda
US Weighs Military Support for France's Campaign against Mali Militants
Anne Gearan, Karen DeYoung and Craig Whitlock / The Washington Post
WASHINGTON, DC (January 15, 2013) -- The Obama administration is considering significant military backing for France's drive against al-Qaeda-linked militants in Mali, but its support for a major ally could test US legal boundaries and stretch counterterrorism resources in a murky new conflict.
The United States is already providing surveillance and other intelligence help to France and may soon offer military support such as transport or refueling planes, according to US officials, who stressed that any assistance would stop short of sending American combat forces to the volatile West African nation.
At the same time, the administration is navigating a thicket of questions about military support and how far it could go in aiding the French without violating US law or undermining policy objectives.
Direct military aid to Mali is forbidden under US law because the weak rump government there seized power in a coup. US moves are further complicated by uncertainty about which militants would be targeted in an assault.
The loosely affiliated web of Malian militants in the country's north includes members of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). But other fighters are longtime foes of the Malian government and pose no direct threat to US interests.
"Our goal is to do what we can," Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said Tuesday during a visit to Spain. "The fundamental objective is to ensure that AQIM -- al-Qaeda -- never establishes a base of operations in Mali or anywhere else."
France launched fresh airstrikes in Mali on Tuesday and said it will triple the size of its combat force there. The punishing bombing campaign has failed to stop the militants' advance, and the additional forces suggest preparation for a ground assault.
The Obama administration is wary of deepening its involvement in the conflict. But the United States shares French concern about the militants' territorial gains. It is also eager to help a top ally with which it has worked closely on counterterrorism issues in Africa, a senior administration official said.
On all sides, the overriding fear is that the militants will create a terrorist haven in rugged northern Mali similar to the one that fighters secured in Afghanistan before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
US officials have said publicly that they are evaluating France's requests for further assistance. But privately, they say that one of the critical requests relates to intelligence that could be used for targeting purposes, said the senior official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity about intelligence and diplomatic matters.
Evaluating the request involves "understanding what the French objectives are and really how they intend to go about them and against whom," the official said. The official was not specific about whether the surveillance being shared with France comes from drones or from satellites.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said: "They've asked for support with airlift. They've asked for support with aerial refueling. We are already providing information, and we are looking hard today at the airlift question, helping them transport forces from France and from the area into the theater, and also at the refueling question."
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