Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta (photo) and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Martin Dempsey testified at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Wednesday that the Obama administration would seek "international permission" before intervening military in Syria's civil war. Both men left open, however, the question of whether the approval of Congress would be either sought or required. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) pressed Panetta repeatedly on that question, but failed to get a definitive answer.
"We're worried about international legal basis, but no one's worried about the fundamental constitutional legal basis that this Congress has over war," Sessions protested. Referring to the last year's bombing raids by the United States and United Nations allies in Libya, Sessions said: "We were not asked, stunningly, in direct violation of the War Powers Act, whether or not you believe it's constitutional, [the Libyan raids] certainly didn't comply with it. We spent our time worrying about the UN, the Arab League, NATO, and too little time worrying about the elected representatives of the United States," Sessions said. "Do you think you can act without Congress and initiate a No Fly Zone in Syria, without congressional approval?" he asked Panetta.
"Again, our goal would be to seek international permission and we would come to the Congress and inform you and determine how best to approach this," Panetta replied. "Whether or not we would want to get permission from the Congress, I think those are issues I think we would have to discuss as we decide what to do here." Sessions made it clear he was not pleased with what he heard.
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