By Kristina Wong - 03/11/14 04:36 PM EDT
A top defense official said he thought it was time to reconsider the legal authority used by the military to target terrorists around the world.
Michael Lumpkin, assistant defense secretary for special operations and low intensity conflict, told lawmakers Tuesday that the U.S. needed to "re-look" the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), which the U.S. uses to justify drone attacks and special operations raids against al-Qaeda and associated forces anywhere in the world.
Lawmakers and military officials have expressed concern in recent months that although the AUMF allows U.S. forces to target Al Qaeda and Al Qaeda-affiliated forces, they may be unable to go after terrorists who are just "aligned" or "loosely-linked" with Al Qaeda.
Last fall, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said he was unable to target the Benghazi consulate attackers because they did not fall under the AUMF.
“Are we locked in by their organizational structure? I mean, can the enemy use their organizational structure to deny us capabilities to protect the country?” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) asked Lumpkin at the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.
“I think that if there is an affiliate, an associate and it's been recognized regardless of how they -- what they call themselves in the relationship, I think that -- of course we have a lawyers group, but my sense is that we would probably be in a good place to use the AUMF,” answered Lumpkin.
However, he added, “Currently, however, I think we are at a point where the AUMF -- there's some point we need to re-look at it to make sure we -- it serves us to the best way,” he added.
“We look forward to working with the Congress if the decision is made to go down that road,” he said.