Jon Huntsman made the most eloquent case against waterboarding.
"This country has values," he said. "We have a name brand in the world... I've been an ambassador for my country three times. I've lived overseas and done business. We diminish our standing in the world and the values that we project that include liberty and democracy, human rights and open markets when we torture. We should not torture. Water-boarding is torture. We dilute ourselves down like a whole lot of other countries and we lose our ability to project values that a lot of people in a lot of corners of the world are still relying on the United States to stand up for."
ASSASSINATING AMERICAN CITIZENS
President Obama insists that he has the authority to order the assassination of American citizens who haven't been convicted of any crime or afforded due process so long as he first declares -- in a secret process the details of which we're not allowed to know -- that the target is a terrorist. Said one of the moderators during the debate, "Is it appropriate for the American president -- on the president's say so alone -- to order the death of an American citizen suspected of terrorism?"
Mitt Romney fielded the question.
"Absolutely," he said. "In this case, this is an individual who aligned himself with a group who had declared war on the United States of America. And if there's someone who is going to join a group that declares war on America and we're in a war with that entity, then of course, anyone bearing arms with that entity is fair game for the United States of America." What Romney doesn't mention is that if al-Awlaki, the American citizen we've already assassinated, could be killed "on the president's say so alone," than anyone can be killed. Limiting the president's killing authority to targets who "declare war on America" is meaningless if someone can be found guilty of having declared war on America based on the president's say so alone.
That brings us to Newt Gingrich's frightening answer.
MODERATOR: "As president of the United States would you sign that death warrant for an American overseas who you believe is a terrorist suspect?"
GINGRICH: "Well, he's not a terrorist suspect. He's a person who was found guilty under review of actively seeking the death of American citizens."
MODERATOR: "Not found guilty by a court, Sir. He was found guilty by a panel who looked at it and reported to the president. That's extra-judicial. It's not the rule of law."
GINGRICH: "It is the rule of law. That is explicitly false. It is the rule of law. If you engage in war against the United States, you are an enemy combatant. You have none of the civil liberties of the United States. You cannot go to court... Waging war on the United States is outside criminal law.
What is Gingrich ignoring?
In Hamdi vs. Rumsfeld, the Supreme Court addressed the case of an American citizen declared an enemy combatant by the Bush Administration, which asserted that he took up arms and fought with the Taliban. As Sandra Day O'Connor affirmed in her majority opinion, "due process demands that a citizen held in the United States as an enemy
combatant be given a meaningful opportunity to contest the factual
basis for that detention before a neutral decision-maker."