Congressman Mac Thornberry, the Vice Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, introduced a bill today that would, for the first time, require prompt notification to the Congressional defense committees of any overseas lethal or capture operation outside of Afghanistan– including those conducted with Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, commonly referred to as “drones.”
“As we work to keep Americans safe from evolving threats, we must ensure that every action is consistent with our civil liberties and freedoms. This balance can only be achieved by proper oversight and accountability, and it is Congress’s job to provide both,” said Rep. Thornberry. “This bill can help us meet that responsibility.”
The “Oversight of Sensitive Military Operations Act” would require the Congressional defense committees be notified of targeted lethal operations by the U.S. military overseas. It would also require a report outlining all legal and policy considerations relating to the use of force by the U.S. military against terrorists overseas, and the process used to approve potential targets. Finally, it would codify in-depth quarterly updates to the defense committees on counterterrorism operations by the U.S. military.
As more and more has been written about and reported on the use and oversight of armed drones in counterterrorism operations, demands for information within Congress and among the public have grown. There has been bipartisan support in the House and Senate for more Congressional oversight of such operations to ensure they are carried out in ways that are consistent with the United States Constitution and American values.
“Congress is directly accountable to the American people. We cannot outsource our responsibility to the courts or anyone else,” said Thornberry. “The American people need to know that their elected officials will hold President Obama and his Administration, or any administration, accountable for their actions. This bill is an important step in formalizing that accountability process.”
Thornberry introduced his bipartisan bill along with 28 other co-sponsors, including Reps. McKeon (R-CA), Forbes (R-VA), Miller (R-FL), Wilson (R-SC), LoBiondo (R-NJ), Bishop (R-UT), Turner (R-OH), Kline (R-MN), Rogers (R-AL), Franks (R-AZ), Shuster (R-PA), Conaway (R-TX), Lamborn (R-CO), Wittman (R-VA), Hunter (R-CA), Coffman (R-CO), Rigell (R-VA), Gibson (R-NY), Hartzler (R-MO), Heck (R-NV), Scott (R-GA), Nugent (R-FL), Noem (R-SD), Bridenstine (R-OK), Wenstrup (R-OH) , Smith (D-WA), Langevin (D-RI), Hanabusa (D-HI).