This afternoon, the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) held a debate titled “Does Security Trump Freedom?” that featured former GOP congressman and Libertarian Presidential candidate Bob Barr, Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA), and former Bush Assistant Attorney General Viet Dinh. During one point in the debate, Barr condemned the right’s call to try terror suspects exclusively in military tribunals and defended plans to try suspects in civilian courts. He then insisted that waterboarding is torture, which prompted the crowd to start booing. As they continued to boo, he pointed to the audience and asked, “How would you like to be waterboarded? Try that!”:
BARR: But I don’t think we should go down the path of allowing our leaders to have their cake and eat it too. There is nothing magical about a military tribunal. They don’t have necessarily better lawyers than the civilian sector. I think I have a lot more faith in our US attorneys who are nonpolitical than my colleagues on the other side of this debate. We can try them. We should try them. That is precisely, Jay, what our law provides for. And the first time we’re faced with a situation we say, “Oh we’re going to have them go to the military let them torture them for a while, it’s not enhanced interrogation technique. Waterboarding is torture! How would you like to be waterboarded? Try that!
Attorney General Eric Holder has declared that waterboarding is torture, and due to the illegality of the procedure, the United States has prosecuted it in the past. Former Vice President Dick Cheney has repeatedly applauded the torture technique, and has admitted he was a “big supporter” of its use during the previous administration.