A Republican House member is drafting legislation that would authorize military and intelligence operatives to kill the terrorists involved in the deadly attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission and CIA base in Benghazi, Libya,
The move comes after Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, Joint Chiefs chairman, told a closed House committee hearing that he does not have legal power to strike the perpetrators, who killed four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador, in 2012.
Several lawmakers have expressed frustration that the terrorists continue to go free after President Obama vowed to bring them to justice. Terrorists killed U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, a State Department aide and two former Navy SEALs protecting the CIA compound.
The authorization language from Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican, would give the Obama administration the same kill authority it now has to go after members of al Qaeda.
That legal justification is contained in the Authorization of Use of Military Force legislation passed by Congress and signed by President George W. Bush in response to al Qaeda's Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Mr. Hunter plans to propose his amendment on May 7, when the House Committee on Armed Services writes the fiscal 2015 defense budget bill that spells out national security policies.
His interest was piqued by an answer Gen. Dempsey provided in October during close-door testimony before the House Armed Services subcommittee on oversight and investigations. The Pentagon declassified the general's response earlier this year.
Asked by Rep. Michael Conaway, Texas Republican, why the U.S. has not gone after the Benghazi culprits, the four-star general said:
"Well, first of all, the individuals related in the Benghazi attack — those that we believe were either participants or leadership of it — are not [subject to] authorized use of military force. In other words, they don't fall under the AUMF authorized by the Congress of the United States. So we would not have the capability to simply find them and kill them, either with a remotely-piloted aircraft or with an assault on the ground. Therefore, they will have to be captured, and we would when asked provide capture options to do that."
There have been no reported efforts to capture the men, some of whom were charged by the Justice Department in the attacks. Media reports say one of those charged is militia leader Ahmed Abu Khattala. He has lived in the open in Benghazi and has been interviewed by Western reporters.
Both the Bush and Obama administrations have used the Authorization of Use of Military Force to kill al Qaeda and al Qaeda-linked terrorists in Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia.
Gen. Dempsey did not explain why al Qaeda-linked operatives in Benghazi do not fall under the Authorization of Use of Military Force.
"Even if there was an actionable target, our ability to respond is extraordinarily limited and given the fact that there was an attack that led to four dead Americans, the president should have every option in front him," said Joe Kasper, Mr. Hunter's spokesman.
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