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Smith v. Obama

United States District Court for the District of Columbia
217 F. Supp. 3d 283 (2016)


In response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Congress passed two laws authorizing the use of military force (AUMFs) against those responsible. The first authorized the president to use all necessary force against the terrorists or anyone who harbored them in order to prevent future attacks. The second authorized the president to use the military as necessary and appropriate to defend national security against the threat posed by Iraq. Congress expressly intended both to supply specific statutory authority for the president to act under the War Powers Act. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) allied itself with al Qaeda, the group responsible for 9/11, under Osama bin Laden’s leadership. When al Qaeda’s leaderships changed and the groups split, ISIL nonetheless continued to denounce and target the U.S. as its enemy. In 2014, President Obama (defendant) announced plans to destroy the terrorist threat posed by ISIL, citing both AUMFs as authorizing military action. Known as Operation Inherent Resolve, the campaign included airstrikes, ground support, and counterterrorism strategies intended to eliminate ISIL in Iraq and Syria. Congress repeatedly provided funding for the operation without additional AUMFs. As part of the campaign, Army Captain Nathan Smith (plaintiff) was deployed to Kuwait on an intelligence mission. Smith sued, asking the court to declare the campaign unlawful because Congress had not authorized it. President Obama (defendant) moved to dismiss on two grounds: (1) that Smith lacked standing and (2) that his claims raised nonjusticiable political questions.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Kollar-Kotelly, J.)

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