White House to Congress: Military deployments to Yemen, Libya are purely defensive

In a letter to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate President Pro Tempore Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), President Obama outlined the administration's plans for the deployed Marines, in accordance with mandates under the War Powers Act. 

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Roughly 50 Marines with the U.S. Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security Team (FAST) are on the ground in the Yemeni capitol of Saana, to defend the American diplomatic outpost that has been under siege by protestors. 

Separate Marine Corps elements from the elite anti-terrorism team were deployed to Libya, in the wake of the deadly attack on the U.S. Consulate there. 

"Although these security forces are equipped for combat, these movements have been undertaken solely for the purpose of protecting American citizens and property," according to the letter. 

The FAST units will remain on the ground in both countries "until the security situation becomes such that they are no longer needed," the president added. 

"These actions have been directed consistent with my responsibility to protect U.S. citizens both at home and abroad ... pursuant to my constitutional authority to conduct U.S. foreign relations and as Commander in Chief and Chief Executive," the letter states. 

Earlier this year, House GOP lawmakers accused the Obama administration of not adhering to the War Powers Act when the White House ordered U.S. warships to the coast of Libya last March to support the NATO-led mission to oust former Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi. 

"We have not exercised our constitutional responsibilities" to weigh in on matters of war, Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) told Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in April during a House Armed Services Committee hearing on U.S. options in Syria. 

"That is not what we believe the constitution to be. That is not what we believe the War Powers act to be," Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) told The Hill in April, regarding the administration's actions in the run-up to the Libyan peacekeeping operation. 

At the time, Panetta told lawmakers his department would fully abide by the statutes under the War Powers Act "as long as I am secretary [of Defense]." 

Nearly 2,000 Yemeni nationals, enraged over the negative depiction of the Prophet Muhammad in an online anti-Islamic video this week, stormed the U.S. compound late Thursday. 

The protests came a day after a brazen raid on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, ended with the deaths of four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens. 

Also among the dead was Glen Doherty, a former U.S. Navy SEAL who was working with a private security firm under contract with the State Department in Libya.