One-time Libertarian presidential candidate Bob Barr riled the conservative CPAC crowd on Friday, when he declared that civilian courts were appropriate for handling terrorists and insisted that -- if a trial was what they wanted -- those who used waterboarding should be brought before a judge.
The Georgia Republican appeared on a panel about the balance between national security and personal freedoms.
Pointing to the passage of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, Barr insisted that America already had the laws in place to handle terrorist acts like the failed Christmas Day airline bomb plot. Those who suggested that "an idiot on that airline flying into Detroit on Christmas Day" needed to be sent to a military tribunal were "allowing our leaders to have their cake and eat it too."
"There is nothing magical about a military tribunal," Barr said, as boos from the audience began cascading around him. "They don't have, necessarily, better lawyers than in a civilian sector. I think I have a lot more faith in our U.S. attorneys who are non political, than my colleagues on the other side of this debate do. We can try them. We should try them. That is precisely... what our law provides for. And if next time we are faced with a situation we say: 'Oh, you know, we want to have them go to the military. Let them torture them for a while. It's not enhanced interrogation techniques. Waterboarding is torture. How would you like to be waterboarded? Try that!"
Needless to say, Barr was alone with his sentiments. Following him on the dais was Viet Dinh, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center and one of the authors of the USA Patriot Act.
"I think Congressman Barr's implication of the act passed in 1996 is rhetorical but not relevant because since 1996 there have been a couple other laws, one the authorization of the use of military force after 9/11," Dinh explained. "Two, the military commission act, which explicitly and expressly authorized the use of military commissions to try unlawful enemy combatants for acts that are not only contrary to the unites states law but contrary to the law of nations and the laws of war."