09 Sep White House Counsel Announces Syria Strike Would Not Violate International Law, But Doesn’t Explain How
In the UK, the government released a brief note which described the legal theory justifying a strike on Syria. The note may have had flaws, but it certainly offered a basis to evaluate the UK government’s view of international law. In the United States, the equivalent appears to be conversations between the White House Counsel and Charlie Savage of the NYT
Ms. Ruemmler said that while an attack on Syria “may not fit under a traditionally recognized legal basis under international law,” the administration believed that given the novel factors and circumstances, such an action would nevertheless be “justified and legitimate under international law” and so not prohibited.
Come on, Charlie, you have got to push her to elaborate! Why would it be “justified and legitimate”? Is it illegal but legitimate, or is it actually legal under a theory yet to be revealed by the administration? Has the State Department been asked for an opinion?
I don’t fault the reporter here since the constitutional issue is plainly more important than the international one, as a practical matter. But I am curious that the President, who has publicly cited international law as a factor in his decisionmaking, has not bothered to offer anything more than a quote in a NYT article to explain its international legality. To be sure, Congress is not exactly pushing him to do so, but I am surprised the bureaucracy hasn’t generated anything yet. Leak, please!