Obama ‘overruled lawyers’ in Libya war debate

WASHINGTON (AFP) – President Barack Obama overruled two senior government lawyers in deciding that he had the authority to continue US military operations in Libya without Congressional approval, The New York Times has reported.

In reaching his conclusion Obama rejected the opinions of Jeh Johnson, the Pentagon general counsel, and Caroline Krass, the acting head of the Justice Department?s Office of Legal Counsel, The Times reported late Friday, citing unnamed officials familiar with the deliberations.

Johnson and Krass both told the White House they believed that US military activity in the NATO-led air war over Libya amounted to “hostilities.”

Under the 1973 War Powers Resolution (WPR), a president has 60 days to get authorization from Congress — which under the US constitution has the authority to declare war — for a military deployment. Failing that, the Resolution sets a further 30 days to withdraw US forces from harm’s way.

Obama however agreed with two other top government lawyers — White House counsel Robert Bauer and State Department legal adviser Harold Koh — who said the US military action in Libya did not amount to “hostilities” because it was in a support role.

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