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Naval prof says attacks justified to fight terror

| Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013, 12:02 a.m.

Despite some criticism that President Obama is violating the rights of Americans by conducting drone attacks against citizens suspected of supporting terrorists, history most likely will support Obama's authorization of those killings, a Naval War College professor said Wednesday at St. Vincent College.

“In my view, these are not law enforcement issues that require obedience to due process and certain procedures. This is a war. Our history is fairly replete with examples of American presidents moving unilaterally to deal with threats,” without giving the citizens the right to defend themselves in court, said Stephen Knott, professor of national security affairs at the Naval War College in Newport, R.I.

President Lincoln suspended the right to writ of habeas corpus during the Civil War in 1862, and President Franklin Roosevelt ordered the internment of thousands of Japanese-Americans during World War II without going through a judicial process, Knott pointed out before his lecture on President George W. Bush and the war on terror.

“You can never deny there are serious moral questions here. I'm not sure they are as black and white as some critics of President Bush and Obama have presented,” Knott said.

The controversy has surfaced as John Brennan, an Obama administration official who helped manage the drone program, will go before Congress on Thursday for his confirmation hearing to become director of the Central Intelligence Agency. The U.S. policy on drone attacks has come under scrutiny as a result of a September 2011 drone strike in Yemen that killed Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, both of whom were U.S. citizens.

A Justice Department memo has stated that the government does not need evidence that a specific attack is imminent before launching an attack with drones.

Had this occurred under President Bush, Knott said he was confident that there would have been a lot more criticism leveled against the president.

Combating the terrorist group al-Qaida, which is not confined to national boundaries, can't be approached like fighting a conventional war, Knott said.

Using the drones to target al-Qaida, which is moving its base from the Mideast and Afghanistan, into North Africa, is less expensive and costly in terms of American lives, Knott said.

With Obama planning to pull troops out of Afghanistan in 2014, Knott said there seems to be little incentive for the Taliban to negotiate any settlement for sharing power with the U.S.-backed government of Hamid Karzai.

“A deal is not going to be struck with the Karzai government. They want it all. This could be like Vietnam,” which collapsed within two years of the U.S. withdrawal of troops in 1973, Knott said.

Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-5252 or jnapsha@tribweb.com.

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