House members introduced legislation Thursday that would require the administration to provide advance notice to defense lawmakers of any so-called "kill/capture" counterterrorism operations against al Qaeda and other Islamic militant groups.
The "Oversight of Sensitive Military Operations" bill sponsored by Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) would also require the administration to give advance notice on such missions to members who do not sit on the congressional intelligence panels.
Thornberry, who heads up the House Armed Services subcommittee on emerging threats and intelligence, said his legislation will provide more transparency and Congress greater oversight on the secretive missions.
The operations targeted by the bill run the gamut from armed drone strikes against al Qaeda and other Islamic militant groups to night raids by U.S. special operations forces. The operations targeted would be similar to the May 2011 Navy SEAL raid in Abottabad that resulted in the killing of Osama bin Laden.
If approved by Congress, Thornberry's legislation would require notification not only to the House and Senate defense panels but also the defense subcommittees on the House and Senate Appropriations panels.
However, kill/capture missions by U.S. and allied forces as part of ongoing operations in Afghanistan would not require notification, according to Thornberry.
The bipartisan group of 28 House members co-sponsoring the bill include House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) and ranking member Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithHouse passes sweeping defense policy bill Stumbling plutonium pit project reveals DOE's uphill climb of nuclear modernization Congress should control its appetite for legacy programs when increasing defense budget MORE (D-Wash.)
Senior House defense committee members Reps. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.), Randy ForbesJames (Randy) Randy ForbesDaschle Group hires first GOP lobbyist Overnight Defense: US sanctions NATO ally Turkey over Russian defense system | Veterans groups, top Democrats call for Wilkie's resignation | Gingrich, other Trump loyalists named to Pentagon board Gingrich, other Trump loyalists named to Pentagon advisory panel MORE (R-Va.) and Mike Turner (R-Ohio) have also signed onto the legislation.
As part of the notice given to the panels, U.S. military and intelligence officials will have to provide a report "outlining all legal and policy considerations" taken before a kill/capture operation.
Along with notification, defense lawmakers will also receive "in-depth quarterly updates" on all counterterrorism missions carried out by U.S. forces.
Thornberry's bill is part of a renewed push on Capitol Hill for transparency in the Obama administration's counterterrorism strategy, particularly the White House's aggressive use of drone strikes.
"There has been bipartisan support in the House and Senate for more ... oversight of such operations to ensure they are carried out in ways that are consistent with the United States Constitution," Thornberry said.
Earlier this year, top Democrats on the Senate Intelligence and Judiciary panels pushed for the creation of new authorities for federal courts to oversee the use of armed drone strikes against suspected terror targets worldwide.
That authority would likely be patterned after the intelligence oversight responsibilities under the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act, Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinFederal watchdog calls on Congress, Energy Dept. to overhaul nuclear waste storage process Senate advances Biden consumer bureau pick after panel logjam Republicans caught in California's recall trap MORE (D-Calif.), the Senate Intelligence Committee’s chairwoman, told reporters at the time.
But Senate Republicans, including Sens. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainWhoopi Goldberg signs four-year deal with ABC to stay on 'The View' Collins to endorse LePage in Maine governor comeback bid Meghan McCain: Country has not 'healed' from Trump under Biden MORE (Ariz.), Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamTrump pushes back on book claims, says he spent 'virtually no time' discussing election with Lee, Graham The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden meets with lawmakers amid domestic agenda panic The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - House Democrats plagued by Biden agenda troubles MORE (S.C.) and Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyottePoll: Potential Sununu-Hassan matchup in N.H. a dead heat Democrats facing tough reelections back bipartisan infrastructure deal Sununu seen as top recruit in GOP bid to reclaim Senate MORE (N.H.), argued that type of legal oversight would hamstring the White House's ability to take out key al Qaeda figures.
Drone strikes have been critical in the Obama administration's counterterrorism campaign against Islamic militant groups.
U.S. national security officials claim the strikes have decimated the terror group's top leaders in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere.
But top civil rights groups, such as the American Civil Liberties Union, claim the counterterrorism tactic denies suspects — particularly U.S. citizens — their rights to due process in favor of national security objectives.