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Libertarians: Time to get serious about justice for torturers

Thomas L. Knapp
Center for Libertarian Press Information
May 15, 2009

President Barack Obama entered the Oval Office brandishing promises to close the US detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, shut down CIA “black sites” around the world, and bring cleansing sunlight to bear on human rights abuses perpetrated by the Bush administration in the name of a “Global War On Terror.” On Friday, Libertarians called on Obama to quit stalling and get with the program.

“Every time it looks like justice will make it out of the woods, Obama falls off the wagon,” says Starchild, coordinator of the national activist group Grassroots Libertarians. “Less than four months into his presidency, we’re back to kangaroo courts at Gitmo, covering up crimes with a constitutionally baseless state secrets doctrine, and hiding evidence by deeming it ‘classified.’”

Earlier this week, President Obama reneged on his administration’s pledge to publicly release photos depicting abuse of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yesterday, after months of stalling on closure of Guantanamo Bay, he announced a return to the policy of trying terror cases by military commission instead of in the courts, as required by the Constitution. Obama’s White House has repeatedly sandbagged even his own party’s efforts to prosecute, or even expose, those responsible for the previous administration’s policy of torturing prisoners.

The Libertarian Party’s platform holds that “the Bill of Rights provides no exceptions for a time of war. Intelligence agencies that legitimately seek to preserve the security of the nation must be subject to oversight and transparency. We oppose the government’s use of secret classifications to keep from the public information that it should have, especially that which shows that the government has violated the law.”

To Marc Montoni, secretary of the Libertarian Party of Virginia, Obama’s policy shifts smell of politics as usual. “America voted for change we could believe in,” he says. “What we’re seeing so far looks more like Bush’s third term.”

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