WASHINGTON, May 22 (UPI) -- An amendment to the just-passed $600 billion defense bill that would have seen the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force—the 14-year-old law legalizing the United State's war on terror—expire in a year was just rejected by the Republican-controlled house.
The counter-terrorism law, passed just days after 9/11, is the legal basis the United States uses to justify the indefinite detention of prisoners at Guantanamo bay, authorize drone strikes abroad, and countenance other counterterrorism measures.
While some have proposed rescinding the law entirely, including President Obama, who asked Congress last year "to refine, and ultimately repeal" the AUMF, others are concerned that revoking the AUMF would effectively disarm the United States, leaving no legal authorization for counterterrorism.
"We would be left with no authority to take action against terrorists bent on killing Americans," Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, said. "They just opened the 9/11 museum in New York in the last few days. Have we forgotten so quickly about what this AUMF is all about?"
The amendment was sponsored by Rep. Adam Schiff, D-California, who said a year would be "time for the administration to consider what authorities are needed to protect the nation. A more narrow authorization constrained in focus and duration may very well be necessary."
"The world is still dangerous," Thornberry added. "The terrorists are still coming for us. We need to keep this in place."
Fourteen years later, along with refusing to repeal the AUMF, Congress is still unwilling to close Guantanamo Bay. Despite the president's urging them to do so and a domestic prison system capable of incarcerating terrorists, the House also rejected an amendment to close the facility and transfer detainees.
The White House has threatened to Veto the defense bill.