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Obama White House on the defensive over Libya attacks

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WASHINGTON--The Obama White House is trying to head off a fight in Congress over why President Obama authorized air strikes over Libya without a congressional vote.

From an administration official: "the bottom line is this operation has achieved a great deal in just over two months in terms of saving lives; in terms of pushing back Qaddafi's forces and degrading his capabilities and his ability to threaten his own people; in terms, again, of building international support to isolate and pressure Qaddafi; and to pursue a goal that is profoundly in the interest of the Libyan people and the United States, which is an end to the targeting of civilians in Libya and ultimately, of course, a Libya that is more responsive and reflective of the aspirations of its own people."

In this post:
Below, the pdf to a declassified report on the U.S. in Libya
At the click, a transcript of a White House briefing on the War Powers Act and why Obama took action
At the click, after the transcript, a copy of a letter the Obama White House sent to House Speaker John Boehner and members of Congress, a summary of all the above.

The Obama White House summary report on U.S. activities in Libya pdf is here. United_States_Activities_in_Libya_--_6_15_11(2).pdf


THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary

_________________________________________________________________________________________________

For Immediate Release June 15, 2011

PRESS BRIEFING

BY SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIALS

ON LIBYA

Via Conference Call

2:10 P.M. EDT

MR. VIETOR: Thank you, everybody, for getting on. We just wanted to do a couple quick things today in advance of the report going up to the Hill. So just some housekeeping -- we have two senior administration officials joining us today. For the purposes of your reporting of this call, please keep them as senior administration officials.

This call is embargoed until the report is sent up to the Hill, so you should get an email from the White House press office at some point this afternoon, probably in the next hour or two that includes this report. So once you receive that, you can use this information in your stories to help contextualize it with additional background.

We're going to try to keep this relatively brief, but I'll turn it over to my colleague who can talk about the broader thinking behind our efforts, and then we'll take questions.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Sure. Thanks, everybody. I just want to step back and, given the interest in Libya, to put in context the operations there to date and where things stand.

I think it's important to remember that the President took the position that he did at a time of great and growing crisis and urgency. Qaddafi's forces were advancing on major population centers in Libya. He was threatening to massacre his own people. He was threatening to go door to door in a city like Benghazi, of 700,000 people, where the Libyan opposition was concentrated. So we were faced with the very real and urgent danger of an impending mass atrocity.

Similarly, there were additional concerns. Not only did we have the humanitarian concern of a mass atrocity within Libya that could take place, but we had a leader acting in clear violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions, essentially flaunting the will of the international community. We also had a leader doing this at the heart of a vital region to U.S. interests -- between two countries, Egypt and Tunisia, that are undertaking historic, democratic transformations, and again, in a region that is a nexus for many different U.S. interests.

And it was further our judgment that standing idly by -- even with these U.N. Security Council resolutions, even with Qaddafi's own warnings of his commitment to commit an atrocity -- would have been gravely damaging to the future of Libya, the region and U.S. interests. So we took action as a part of an international coalition to enforce U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973 and protect Libyan civilians.

It's now been just over two months since the onset of that action, and I think it's important to note the progress that's been made in this fairly limited period of time. We stopped Qaddafi's forces in their tracks. We prevented a massacre of civilians in Benghazi, saved potentially many thousands of lives. If you look at the way the situation has developed, before the coalition acted, Qaddafi was steadily advancing across his country at a very brisk rate. Since the coalition intervened, Qaddafi's forces have not only been stopped, they've been pushed back. So the opposition has been able to preserve its territory in Benghazi, but also in places in the east such as Ajdabiya, the regime has been pushed back, and westward from Benghazi and Ajdabiya, protecting the people there, giving the Libyan people the time and space they need to prepare for the democratic transition that they seek.

Similarly, in the major population center of Misurata that was under a brutal siege of the Libyan regime for many weeks, increasingly the opposition has consolidated their control over Misurata, civilians have been protected by the coalition, Qaddafi's forces have been pushed back. And you've seen similar movement in different parts of the country.

The bottom line is that lives have been saved; Qaddafi's advances have been stopped; the opposition and the Libyan people have had time and space to organize; and right now we see a situation in which time very much is working against Qaddafi. And I'll return to that in a second.

It's also important to note that the President was very clear at the front end of this effort that the U.S. contribution would be limited in scope and duration; that there would be no U.S. troops on the ground in Libya. And that, of course, is a commitment that the President has kept and will continue to keep, that we will have no U.S. troops on the ground as a part of our effort there.

Similarly, the President said we would bring a set of unique capabilities to bear on the front end and then transition to our NATO allies and coalition partners. And that's exactly what's taken place. After a period of days, not weeks, the U.S. undertook that transition; command was shifted to NATO. The responsibility for the enforcement of the no-fly zone and the civilian protection mission shifted to NATO and our coalition partners.

Now we're in a situation where all of the ships enforcing the arms embargo are European or Canadian. The no-fly zone and civilian protection mission are being enforced by our coalition partners. And what the United States is doing is we're in a support role. Again, we don't have boots on the ground. We're not the ones enforcing the civilian protection mission and no-fly zone, but rather, we're providing intelligence capabilities. We're providing refueling capabilities. We're enabling essentially, through our unique capabilities and our support, the NATO coalition to enforce this mission.

So the nature of our contribution changed very dramatically in the initial days of this operation, dramatically reducing the cost to the United States and the responsibility that we're bearing.

I think it's also important to just point to a number of others ways in which we believe, at this point in time, we have time working against Qaddafi. I pointed to the fact that he has less territory under his control, that his forces have been under -- have been degraded substantially by the coalition's efforts, and that he's cut off from cash and materiel that he needs to sustain his regime.

At the same time, we also see a growing list of regime officials who have abandoned the Qaddafi regime -- a clear barometer that they believe that time is working against him and that the future of Libya won't be determined by Qaddafi or the regime that he leads. That includes, of course, the foreign minister and interior minister, many ambassadors around the world, an oil minister, generals, rank-and-file military, and others have all defected over the course of the last several weeks -- a clear indicator we believe that the regime is cracking under the pressure he's facing.

At the same time, the international community has coalesced around a political strategy that supports the democratic aspirations of the Libyan people, and reaffirms that Qaddafi has lost the legitimacy to lead and should go.

There's a contact group that's been organized internationally. This includes more than 20 nations as part of the coalition -- includes the United Nations, the Arab League, NATO, the European Union, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the GTC, have all met on multiple occasions to reaffirm their support for the Libyan people, to build their connection to the Libyan opposition, and to look forward to the type of democratic transition that the Libyan people deserve.

We've seen additional leaders come forward and call for Qaddafi to go, from Russian President Medvedev to the prime minister of Turkey, Prime Minister Erdogan. So the international pressure has also escalated on Qaddafi as well.

Finally, we've seen the Libyan opposition, with the time and space that they've had, coalesce in many respects -- build their ties to the international community, expand their representation within Libya so that they are working to be truly representative body. They've committed themselves to a democratic transition within Libya; to adherence to international standards as it relates human rights; and of standing strongly against any violent extremist and terrorist elements who might try to take advantage of the situation in Libya. So in this period of time, the opposition has been able to coalesce both within Libya and through its contacts with the international community.

So, again, the bottom line is this operation has achieved a great deal in just over two months in terms of saving lives; in terms of pushing back Qaddafi's forces and degrading his capabilities and his ability to threaten his own people; in terms, again, of building international support to isolate and pressure Qaddafi; and to pursue a goal that is profoundly in the interest of the Libyan people and the United States, which is an end to the targeting of civilians in Libya and ultimately, of course, a Libya that is more responsive and reflective of the aspirations of its own people.

So I'll say that by way of introduction and then would be happy to take your questions.

Q Thank you, gentlemen, for taking the time to do the call and thank you for your service. My question is a simple one. Does the President believe that the War Powers resolution is constitutional or not? Thank you.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We are in no way putting into question the constitutionality of the War Powers resolution. As you know, we filed the initial report in this matter before the character of the mission changed. We are operating now in this reconfigured mission consistent with the War Powers resolution, and as you know, we've also sought from Congress continuing authorization.

Q But if you don't have that authorization, the War Powers resolution requires you to withdraw all military forces. Do you intend to do this?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The authorization -- and this has certainly been true of at least some Presidents before this one -- the authorization reflects a belief that in the broader cert of the resolution, which is consistent with relations between the branches, we should have the authorization. But our view also is that even in the absence of authorization, we are operating consistent with the resolution.

Q Could you explain that a little bit more?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Certainly. As I mentioned, as my colleague was going through the nature of the mission and how it changed, we're now in a position where we're operating in a support role. We're not engaged in any of the activities that typically over the years in war powers analysis is considered to constitute hostilities within the meaning of the statute. We're not engaged in sustained fighting. There's been no exchange of fire with hostile forces. We don't have troops on the ground. We don't risk casualties to those troops. None of the factors, frankly, speaking more broadly, has risked the sort of escalation that Congress was concerned would impinge on its war-making power.

So within the precedence of a war powers analysis, all of which typically are very fact-dependent, we are confident that we're operating consistent with the resolution. That doesn't mean that we don't want the full, ongoing consultation with Congress or authorization as we move forward, but that doesn't go to our legal position under the statute itself, and we're confident of that.

Q But aren't U.S. planes occasionally flying sorties and are engaging in offensive action against enemy forces?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Sorties obviously -- sorties, of course, include defensive action. But if you take a look at the precedence over a number of years under the War Powers Act, you will see that that does not end the analysis in any way. There have been numerous instances where the United States has supported or been engaged in some form of military activity, which has not been viewed as rising to the level of hostilities that would have either required an initial report in some cases, or alternatively, would have caused or required the United States to withdraw after the close of the 60-day period.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'd just add to that the President was very clear at the front end about what the nature of our contribution would be. We bore a heavy share of the burden for strike sorties, for civilian protection, and for enabling a no-fly zone in the initial days, not weeks, of the operation.

Command authority shifted to NATO. The responsibility for enforcing the civilian protection mission shifted to NATO. The responsibility for enforcing the no-fly zone shifted to NATO. The overwhelming majority of strike sorties since those initial days are now flown by European allies and coalition partners. The United States is fully in a support role.

That involves, as I said, intelligence, targeting information, refueling. So we are fundamentally shifted from being in the lead end of offensive operations, as we were in the initial days, to being pulled back into a support role of our allies and partners.

The particular capability was a unique capability that the President has made available to NATO; it is the unmanned aerial vehicles that are able to on occasion strike targets. But that is a very limited contribution. And, again, by any measure, the responsibility for the enforcement of no-fly zone and civilian protection has shifted.

And, frankly, most of the time that I have been asked questions by you all since the beginning of the operation was about whether we were going to do more, because some people were raising questions as to whether we'd do more. But the President has fully kept his commitment to the American people, which is that the nature of our engagement was going to change from being in the lead in terms of providing the force in those initial days to being in support. And that's where we are now.

We'll take the next question.

Q Thank you. My question is that on April 15th, the President along with his French and British counterparts published an opinion column in European newspapers, and among other things, it said, "So long as Qaddafi is in power, NATO must maintain its operation so that civilians remain protected and the pressure on the regime builds." That suggests that this mission, this military operation is continuing as long as Qaddafi is in power. I wanted to know whether that is a fair read of that, and whether that is still the position of the President, and if that -- if you're being clear with Congress about that.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, thanks for the question. I'd say a couple of things. First of all, we've been very clear from the outset that the objective of the coalition in terms of the military action that we were undertaking was the enforcement of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973. So, therefore, the military action we're taking is fundamentally to protect civilians. That was the goal of the resolution and that was the authorization that came along with it, that we would intervene to protect Libyan civilians against their government.

I think that what you've heard the President speak to on multiple occasions since then, including the op-ed piece you cite, is that Qaddafi has shown absolutely no indication that he would remain in power and stop threatening his own people. It's a matter of clear -- it's a matter of fact, frankly, that Qaddafi's actions, his words, his behavior continue to be very threatening towards his people, continue to be not credible in terms of him calling for a cease-fire from time to time.

So for instance, you've had instances where Qaddafi's government has said they're pursing a cease-fire while simultaneously they continue to shell civilian populations and threaten the opposition with eradication.

So I think what the leaders were referring to is that Qaddafi as the leader of the country has made it clear that he's going to threaten civilians so long as he's in power. Now, of course, the nature of the activity that we're undertaking is shaped by what Qaddafi is doing. So if Qaddafi is advancing on cities, if he's shelling civilians, then you're going to see the NATO coalition taking an aggressive role in terms of striking targets on the ground.

Were that action to cease, there would still be an arms embargo in place. There would still be a no-fly zone to ensure that civilians were protected. So I think it's important to note that there's a broad range of measures that, at the most extreme end, involve striking targets on the ground that threaten Libyan civilians, but also include enforcement of an arms embargo and no-fly zone that are necessary to protect civilians, so long as they have a regime that has committed itself to targeting them.

So, again, in the first instance, I think we made it very clear that we don't think Qaddafi will cease to pose a threat to his own people, and, therefore, there's going to have to be these measures in place to protect the Libyan people so long as he continues to threaten them.

Then, in a separate category of our political goal for the future of Libya, we've always said Qaddafi has lost his legitimacy and he should leave. That's not just the position of the United States; it's shared by our European allies, it's shared by President Medvedev, it's shared by Prime Minister Erdogan. African heads of state have articulated it, Arab heads of state. So I think there is an emerging global consensus that Libya would be a better place if Qaddafi left and that he has lost his legitimacy through his actions.

And we're continuing to pursue that goal through a range of measures that include, again, the sanctions that we have in place, the political support we provide for the Libyan opposition, the action that the International Contact Group has taken -- including the United Nations and others -- to support a transition to a democratic Libya.

So the military effort remains engaged on protecting Libyan civilians. But I think there's a broad political consensus that Qaddafi should go and that Libya will be a better place and more responsive to its citizens when it transitions to democracy.

Q But this says, as long as Qaddafi is in power, NATO is going to maintain its operations.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Because Qaddafi continues to threaten his people -- right? And so what I'm saying is that there are different types of operations. There is the more aggressive targeting of military assets on the ground that threaten Libyan civilians. Were, hypothetically, Qaddafi to cease those types of attacks, there would still be a NATO-led arms embargo, for instance, to keep him from rearming so he could threaten his people -- right?

So, again, there is a degree of what NATO is engaged in. Hypothetically, if Qaddafi were to do something that he has never -- his behavior has not suggested he would do, which is to stop threatening his people and stop engaging in a military campaign against them, you would still have an arms embargo to prevent Qaddafi from rearming and threatening his people. So there will be an element of pressure on Qaddafi from the NATO-led coalition so long as he is in power.

That's being driven by what is necessary to protect Libyan civilians. What has been necessary in the course of recent days and weeks is an aggressive effort including hitting targets on the ground. But it also would include things like arms embargoes that would endure so long as he's in power.

Q On this question of Qaddafi being in a race against time, the British and the French forces are clearly under some strain as they continue this aggressive action that you talk about, the more aggressive type of reaction against Qaddafi. Are you confident that the NATO mission has the capacity to continue mounting aggressive actions as long as it takes for Qaddafi to leave?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, we're very confident in the staying power of the coalition. In fact, I think what has been demonstrated in recent days and weeks is a very strong resolve by the international community to see this mission through and to maintain its protection of civilians and pressure on Qaddafi.

For instance, NATO recently extended its own efforts into September, sending a signal that they be continuing the pressure, and have, in fact, escalated the pressure in some places, along with that declaration. So I think the message that the President also got in Europe at every stop was one of commitment and resolve both from the leaders he met individually -- with Prime Minister Cameron, President Sarkozy -- but also at the G8, which issued a very strong statement.

So we believe that it's important for the international community to continue to speak with one voice in saying that we're not going to relent, that Qaddafi is not going to be able to wait this out and further attack his own people. And NATO I think has demonstrated that by extending its own commitment in Libya by stepping up its own operations.

And that's why I think it's important -- we believe it's important to seek that kind of international resolve, but also to pursue the type of congressional consultations that we're undertaking. We believe that there are many strong voices in Congress that have been very clear about the need to hold Qaddafi accountable and we welcome that support and we believe it's important to the United States to similarly speak with a strong voice in saying that Qaddafi's actions are unacceptable and that we're going to continue the pressure on him as long as he, again, continues to pose a threat to his own people.

Q But specifically on the military side, does Europe have enough armaments to continue the pace of operations that they're at right now?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I think you can ask the Europeans. I think that they've demonstrated a very strong set of capabilities in terms of their ability to strike targets. I think what you've seen is different countries within NATO stepping up at different points to provide certain capabilities. Within this coalition there are different countries that are going to make different contributions.

The United States, for instance, as I detailed, made the bulk of its contribution on the front end but continues to provide important support. And within the NATO alliance and within some of our other coalition partners, you've had additional capabilities being brought to bear at different times, to include flying sorties, to include striking targets on the ground.

I think it's also important to note, among the achievements of this operation, this is the first NATO-led military operation that includes Arab participation. That's an historic event in and of itself, and speaks to a unique level of international commitment and a unique international coalition that involves not just the West, not just Europe and the United States and Canada, but also Arab states like the UAE and Qatar, for instance, who have made extraordinary contributions.

So I think we're confident in the ability to sustain our operations and that that confidence is rooted in different types of commitments from different countries within NATO and the coalition more broadly.

Q I'm wondering whether you can comment on a report that there's been a growing interest in some kind of a settlement under which Qaddafi might relinquish power, and whether you can shed any light on that. If you can't on a specific effort, is the overall growing pressure that you described leaning in that direction?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think that what we've seen, Mark, is an increasing interest -- a twofold increasing interest: Number one, an interest in the international community to bring the conflict within Libya to an end so that we can get on with the business of advancing stability in the region and being responsive to the aspiration of the Libyan people; but accompanying that, an increasing realization from a growing number of leaders that ending the conflict is going to have to involve Qaddafi stepping aside because he continues to threaten his people and because he's lost legitimacy.

So you have the core coalition that's been engaged, but you increasingly have African heads of state seeking to play a role in pursuing an end to the conflict. You have President Medvedev calling for Qaddafi to step aside. And you have a lot of activity in the Gulf, of course, with leaders who believe that Qaddafi should step aside. All that is by way of saying there's a lot of entrepreneurial diplomacy taking place. There are multiple initiatives to both opening the door to people around Qaddafi to leave the regime, which has taken place, but also the pursuit of potential exit for Qaddafi.

So I wouldn't highlight one specific plan or initiative. What I would say is that there are many different leaders who are working through their channels, their contacts in Libya and the region, to try to pursue an outcome that sees Qaddafi leave power so that Libya can get on with its future and so that the suffering in Libya can be brought to an end.

And similarly, there have been efforts to make it clear to those around Qaddafi that they should take this opportunity to leave the regime, and to essentially peel away the final layers of support that surround a brutal dictator whose time, in many respects, has come.

Q One follow-up. I mean, there's no evidence -- at least you haven't suggested there's any evidence yet that Qaddafi himself is coming to that conclusion and beginning to think about that, about a settlement?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think that it's hard for us to gauge Qaddafi's mindset. I think that what we have are the indicators of his behavior and the behavior of those around him. And I think what you've seen is cracks in the regime that have been building over time, that have spread from the leadership and some of the political leadership that has abandoned him, but has also now spread into the military. So you see defections by Libyan generals; you also see defections by rank and file in different places, which is an important data point that suggests that the support he needs to stay in power is eroding.

In terms of Qaddafi's own behavior, though, it's very mercurial and unpredictable. I think he has shown signs of strain in the intermittent appearances he's made, and particularly as it relates to the pressure that has been placed not just in Misurata and Benghazi, but on command-and-control targets in Tripoli by the NATO coalition.

So it's hard to gauge Qaddafi's mindset, but we definitely see the cracks in the regime. We definitely see the strain on the regime. And I think what you have accompanying that is a great deal of diplomacy aimed at pursuing an exit for Qaddafi that will allow for a better future for the Libyan people.

Q Hi. Thank you, all, for taking my question. You talked about cost a little bit earlier in the call, or mentioned the cost. Do we know how much the conflict has cost so far? And at what point does the cost I guess reach the point where there's no more wiggle room in the defense budget?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think that there's -- we have a figure associated with costs. It's in the document that will be going up. I think you've heard DOD speak to this in the past in terms of their estimates. I think that an important note, though, that we would make is that we are paying for the war within the context of the Department of Defense budget, so we've not requested a supplemental. We don't plan to request a supplemental. We believe that the operations can be covered within the existing budget. In many respects, that means offsetting other costs, rather than again seeking any new money.

So we'll have I think a fuller and more comprehensive treatment of the costs in a document that will be made available to you. But I think it's very important to note this doesn't include supplemental appropriations. It's being done within DOD budgeting, and so that means it can be done along with cost offsets within the DOD budget and a routine replacement, for instance, in some respects of some of the munitions and materiel associated with the effort.

Q Thank you.

Q Hi. I actually have a few things I want to ask. First of all, are you saying -- would you rule out any increased presence if things deteriorate or get worse or if Qaddafi goes on a massive rampage? Secondly, any response to the Kucinich lawsuit filed today? And third, I'd love a response to the newest House Intelligence member Michele Bachmann's assertion in the debate on Monday that we have no idea who the opposition is in Libya.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Sure. Let me address a couple of those, and then my colleague can address the Kucinich resolution. The first question was -- what was your first question again?

Q Will you rule out an increased presence --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Oh, yes. No, I think the President has made it clear that we -- that the bulk of our commitment was going to be on the front end here, and that we are fundamentally shifting to a support role. He has said he would look at the type of unique capabilities we might provide as a part of that support role, but that the enforcement of civilian protection and the no-fly zone would shift to our allies and partners. So therefore, the type of unique capability that he has since added is the unmanned aerial vehicles that can provide a precision capability and intelligence-gathering capability. But that's consistent I think with it not being U.S. pilots, U.S. planes flying the sorties that are enforcing the civilian protection mission. So we're comfortable with the role we're playing.

Frankly, we don't foresee a need for there to be some kind of surge in capability because, frankly, what's happened is Qaddafi has got a fairly fixed amount of military assets and those have been steadily degraded. So he has far less capability today than he did two or three months ago.

Similarly, there's an arms embargo in place that can prevent him from rearming. So the notion that he could ramp up his ability to threaten his people I think is countervailed by what's taken place, which is a degradation of his capability. So we believe that NATO -- that the current structure of NATO's commitment is more than sufficient to ensure that he can't threaten his people. And in fact, what it's doing is increasingly tipping the balance against him so that he holds less territory and that the opposition, which has taken the time and space that it has to organize itself, to equip itself, is now in a more stronger position.

To the last point, we are very familiar with the Libyan opposition. We have met -- along with the international community -- with the Transitional National Council -- the TNC -- at multiple international venues, to include three meetings of this contact group that includes our NATO coalition and the United Nations. We received the TNC here at the White House. Tom Donilon met with them. Secretary Clinton has met with them on several occasions. They are a credible and legitimate interlocutor for the United States to have with the Libyan people.

We have an envoy in Benghazi who communicates on a regular basis with them. And what we've seen is -- and I think there are very clear answers to this question -- an opposition council, the TNC. It's composed of roughly 45 members. It's led by a former Libyan minister of justice. It is working to coordinate the provision of services to the Libyan people. It has made very consistent statements about its commitment to democracy and representative government for the Libyan people. It has made a very strong statement about its opposition to terrorism and extremism and its commitment to upholding the human rights of the Libyan people.

So I think that the notion that the Libyan opposition is an unknown entity is just completely counterveiled by the facts. This is an entity that is engaged with the international community. It is engaged with the United States. It has performed responsibly through those engagements. It has made positive statements about its commitment to democracy. It has rejected categorically terrorism and violent extremism.

So we believe that we do have a legitimate interlocutor in the TNC. And we believe that they represent a far better future in terms of what can be delivered to the Libyan people than Qaddafi and his regime.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think we won't say much about any lawsuit a member files in matters like this. I think those of you who look at it will see sort of the likely course of something like this where members seek to engage the federal courts in these sorts of issues. But beyond referring you to that history, I don't think we should comment further on the specifics of the lawsuit.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'd just say one more thing about the opposition, too, which is that we -- this is an area where we can work with Congress, which is that we believe it would be important to try to vest some of the assets that we've frozen from the Qaddafi regime on the order of several tens of billions, to take some of those resources and vest them with the opposition council so that the Libyan people are receiving the type of assistance that can help them lead a better life. And we're actively working with Congress on that. So we have a very robust consultative process in pursuit of that particular objective of supporting the opposition with some of the assets we've frozen.

MR. VIETOR: Let's do one last question and we've got to run.

Q I was hoping that you could speak specifically to which part of the War Powers resolution that you say backs up your argument that you're in compliance. I mean, I think looking at it, it's section 4A1, but I just want to be specific. And also, many legal experts say that you're violating the spirit of the law, if not the letter of it. What do you say to that?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, two things. First of all, I have to say I disagree, and I think there are other experts in the world of experts in this matter who will I think validate the view that we hold, that the interpretation of the resolution on these facts that we are expressing here is well within the history of interpretation of the War Powers Act.

As for the statute itself, what I would refer you to is both the statute and a period of interpretation, a course of interpretation, precedence generated since the 1970s. And I think those speak very tellingly. I mean, there is a body of law here, developed over time that we've obviously looked at very closely. So I would refer you to that as well, because I think that's critical, and I tried to touch upon a little bit of that in my earlier answer.

Last but not least, on the distinction between spirit and letter, we're comfortable we're complying with both. And I said at the very beginning that particularly -- not just through the precedence, which I think we're operating squarely within -- but if you look at the overall purpose of the War Powers resolution, and if anything, stands for the spirit of the resolution, is what motivated the Congress to pass it in the first instance. None of the attributes of this limited and constrained mission that my colleague described give rise to any of the concerns that Congress had when the statute was first enacted. So I think we're squarely within both letter and spirit of the law.

Q Will you seed under any circumstances authorization? It sounds like the assumption here is that Qaddafi will fall and that this whole point becomes moot.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, we have sent to the Congress an expression of support for an authorization resolution like the one that Senator Kerry and others in the Senate have been working on. So that's a matter of public record. And obviously, overall, I think this administration believes that consultation with the Congress and working with congressional approval, regardless of the legal position that we're in, is the superior approach.

MR. VIETOR: Thank you, everyone for getting on. And remember, we are on background as senior administration officials, embargoed until hopefully very soon when we send you this document. Thanks again.

END 2:48 P.M. EDT


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Letter to Congress from the Obama White House on Libya......

June 15,2011
The Honorable John A. Boehner
Speaker of the House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Mr. Speaker:

On behalf ofthe Administration, enclosed please find a report and documents regarding
U.S. activities in Libya.
The report, "United States Activities in Libya," describes U.S. actions in Libya to date. Taken in response to direct appeals from the Libyan people, and acting with a mandate from the United Nations, the United States mobilized a broad coalition, stopped an advancing army, prevented a massacre, established a no-fly zone, and limited the spread of violence and instability in a region pivotal to U.S. security interests. Today, the United States supports NATO military operations pursuant to UNSCR 1973 to protect Libyan civilians, and is working with the Transitional National Council and others to secure an inclusive, democratic transition.
The enclosed report consists of unclassified and classified sections:

The unclassified section describes U.S. efforts in Libya; our political and military objectives; an assessment ofthe current situation; U.S. participation in the NATO operation (and consequences if the U.S. were to cease participation); current and projected military, humanitarian, and related costs; an analysis of whether U.S. operations in Libya are impacting U.S. efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan; our current assessment of the Interim Transitional National Council (TNC) and U.S. contacts with the TNC to date; legal analysis; and a listing of congressional hearings, briefings, and other consultations to date.

The classified annex contains information relating to U.S. military operations; opposition military groups; coalition contributions to the NATO mission; extremist groups in Libya; and the MANP AD threat.
In addition to the report, please also find CDs containing electronic copies of documents from departments and agencies that provide further background and context on our efforts in Libya, including United States' support for Operations Odyssey Dawn and Unified Protector. These materials include briefing slides, fact sheets, and other material on the operations
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previously provided to relevant committees ofjurisdiction; copies of the 32 update reports sent to 1,600 congressional staffers over the past several months; cost projections; relevant correspondence; transcripts; official notifications sent to the Senate and House; and other material.
In order to safeguard classified materials appropriately (both the report annex and supporting documents) -and consistent with both Executive and Congressional classified information handling requirements -such information and documents are being transmitted under separate cover. Individual Members and appropriately cleared staff can access such materials through arrangements made with their respective Leaders and as appropriate and consistent with the protection ofintelligence sources and methods and applicable classified information handling requirements.
On behalf of the Administration, we remain committed to continuing to work with Congress on this important matter.
Sincerely,
Joseph E. Macmanus
~ Elizabeth L. King
Acting Assistant Secretary
Assistant Secretary
Legislative Affairs
Legislative Affairs
Department of State
Department of Defense
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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on June 16, 2011 12:44 PM.

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