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University of Iowa News Release


May 11, 2007

National Security Expert Discusses Terrorism And The Law In Law School Course

The United States' fight to defend itself against terrorism will be long and probably permanent, a national security expert said at the University of Iowa College of Law this week.

"It takes only a handful of zealots to carry on this war, and unfortunately, there are more than a handful," said James E. Baker, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces and former staff member of the National Security Council. "As Afghanistan bred one generation of terrorists, Iraq will breed another. The generation beyond, one suspects, is at work in madrasahs throughout South Asia."

Baker is also the author of the recently published book "In The Common Defense: National Security Law for Perilous Times," an analysis of national security threats facing the United States and the legal response to these threats. He said the title of the book was chosen to underscore that national security is addressed to both physical safety and the protection of our constitutional values. Baker is at the College of Law this week to teach a course on managing national security law.

Baker worked for seven years on the staff of the National Security Council, where he advised President Bill Clinton, the National Security Advisor, and the NSC staff on U.S. and international law in such areas as the use of force, the law of armed conflict, intelligence activities, and counter-terrorism.

A former Marine, Baker became a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces in 2000. He is also a frequent visiting lecturer at the College of Law.

In remarks to the law faculty Wednesday, Baker outlined what he considers the greatest threats to U.S. national security:

-- a terrorist attack against the United States with weapons of mass destruction, and in particular a nuclear weapon;

-- governmental actions in response to terrorism that permanently undermine Americans' freedom and the rule of law;

-- a process of political compromise that will result in trade-offs between authority and oversight, which leave the country critically short on both;

-- a focus on terrorism that's so intense that we lose sight of, or diminish our capacity to effectively address other certain national security threats, involving North Korea, Iran, pandemic disease and perhaps environmental degradation.

Baker said he fears that Americans have grown complacent about the threat posed by terrorism, which he said is still as real as it's ever been. In part, he said this "threat fatigue" has been brought about because of divisions over the war in Iraq and the use of "terrorism" as a political talking point. However, he said the threat is nevertheless real and Americans should not lose sight of the fact that the threat is nuclear.

He also said Americans may have grown complacent because no terrorist attacks have occurred in the United States since Sept. 11, 2001.

"Whether we are successful in addressing these threats will depend on finding the optimum policy of offense, defense and diplomacy," Baker said. "It will also depend on whether we effectively apply the law."

The law, Baker noted, provides substantive authority for the executive to act, and to take risks in doing so. However, it also provides essential process -- constitutional and executive -- to ensure that the necessities of speed and secrecy do not negate the parallel necessity for rigorous but timely review, to ensure our actions are both lawful and effective.

Finally, he said law itself is a critical national security value and tool. He illustrated the point by showing how the law of armed conflict also reflects sound military policy in the context of an insurgency as well as how the law improves our capacity to collect and process intelligence.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Service, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Tom Snee, 319-384-0010,