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America Strikes Back: As Campaign Begins in Afghanistan, Congress Stands Behind President

Aired October 8, 2001 - 16:56   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: There is, of course, the question of a Congressional role in this, and we've come back to this from time to time. I want to bring in now our congressional correspondent Jonathan Karl.

To help us understand, Jonathan, what exactly from a legal point of view, a legislative point of view, has the president authorized to do in this military action?

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Judy, on September 14, the Congress came in and drafted and passed, virtually unanimously, an authorization of the use of force in this case. It was passed by the United States Senate 100-0, by the House of Representatives 420-1. That resolution was a very short resolution and a very specific one, and it authorized the use of force against all those involved in the September 11th attacks.

Let me read it because it's important to get the exact language, to see what exactly the Congress has authorized the president to do. It authorized him to take "actions against those nations, organizations or persons that he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11th, and also against those who harbored such organizations or persons."

So clearly in this case, the Congress among talking very specifically about the regime in Afghanistan, the Taliban Regime and also about the al Qaeda network, possibly authorizing action far beyond just Afghanistan.

But very clearly the way this has been interpreted by Congressional leaders has been an authorization of precisely the kind of force that we see now taking place in Afghanistan, which is why it might not be surprising that we have seen the statement come out, the unified statement from all four Congressional leaders, expressing their strong support for the military action.

Also Judy, just a few minutes ago, we got a statement from Joe Biden who is the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, a Democrat. He also offering a very short statement, saying that he "I join all Americans in supporting President Bush."

At the time that resolution was passed on September 14, Joe Biden said on CNN that he believed it was the equivalent of a declaration of war. He said that constitutionally there is no difference between what the Congress did on September 14, authorizing the use of force and a declaration of war.

That's basically what we are looking at here, and we expect to see many more statements in the next hours and days from key Congressional leaders expressing virtually unconditional support for this action in Afghanistan.

The Congress was very specific though, Judy, in saying that the action that was being authorized for the President was specifically had to be dealing with that September 11th attacks. It could go against those that were involved in the attacks, or those who harbored those of the attacks.

But the resolution was very specific in putting that date in there. The force must be used against those that can be tied in some way to the September 11th attacks.

WOODRUFF: And Jon Karl, I have one more question for you, for any of you who are tuning in as we are very close to approaching a 5:00 time on the East Coast.

The United States has launched military strikes, strikes against military installations and terrorist training camps in Afghanistan, and we are now in the fourth, well into the fifth hour of those attacks which started about 12:30 today Eastern time.

Jon, one other quick question to wrap this up. What would Congress need to do if the administration were to escalate somehow, to go to the next step? Or is it felt that the administration at this point can pursue pretty much whatever it needs to do in this campaign?

KARL: The resolution also makes reference to the War Powers Resolution, which says that the president must keep the Congress notified and must continue to get approval from Congress as he goes about executing force around the globe. This resolution, many said at the time, and we're seeing now, in the statements that are coming out, would not necessarily be limited just to Afghanistan. Anybody that was in any way tied with the organizations that did these attacks or harboring those who did the attacks.

So there's not a clear precedent if the president wanted to take further action against other nations that he deemed had something to do with the attacks -- say Iraq. On this resolution, they said at the time, that would be authorized, as long as it could be clearly established to the Congress that the nations that the president was taking action against had something to do with the September 11 attacks.

This was not a blank check allowing the president to go after any terrorist organization anywhere in the world. To do that, congressional leaders say, the president needs to get further authorization. But as long as the actions are brought against somebody or nations who are directly tied in some way to that September 11 attack, this resolution authorizes that force. WOODRUFF: As long as it can be clearly established leaves a lot of room for interpretation down the road, if we get to that point.

Jon Karl, at the Capitol.

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