Six on-campus political groups gathered for a heated debate on American policy regarding torture and domestic surveillance last Wednesday.
The debate was called “From Torture to Surveillance: A Forum on the War on Terror” and focused primarily on the issue of torture.
Attendees represented not only the College Democrats and Republicans, but also the International Socialist Organization (ISO), Amnesty International, the College Libertarians and the Progressive Student Alliance (PSA).
“(The Republican Party) is against torture,” Matt Esposito, senior history education major and chair of the College Republicans, said. He added that the prisoners the United States detains are “dangerous terrorists” who “don’t apply under the Geneva Convention.”
Amnesty International, a group focused on human rights, rejected this idea.
Ryan Patrick, sophomore computer science major and member of Amnesty International, said that prisoners at Guant?namo Bay needed to be “treated humanely” in accordance with international law.
The debaters were also asked to address the controversial issue of the National Security Agency’s (NSA) wiretapping of American citizens.
“(The right to privacy) is not ambiguous,” Chris Geddis, freshman philosophy major and member of the College Libertarians, said.
John Leschak, junior criminology and justice studies major and PSA member, called the wiretaps an “ominous revelation.” Leschak said that NSA was using the wiretaps to spy on political activists.
“If (the government) is representing the people, then the people must be confused,” Leschak said.
Casey Ransom, sophomore biomedical engineering major and ISO member, agreed, and said that the purpose of the wiretapping is to “silence the voice of dissent in America.”
Members of the audience spoke up during the question-and-answer portion and supported his claim. Students attending the forum challenged debaters to address tough issues, including American foreign policy and the role of the media.
Esposito was challenged by members of the audience after claiming that “the media has its own agenda.”
“The media was invented because it was to be the watchdog of the government,” Katherine Healey, senior journalism major, said.
In response to another question from the audience, Dan Beckelman, sophomore political science major and member of the College Democrats, said, “(Terrorists) hate Western civilization.”
Beckelman became the subject of harsh criticism during the debate.
Anthony Milici, senior English major, said Beckelman was “actually a Republican.”
“I am a conservative democrat,” Beckelman said.
Beckelman said that he and Scott Blair, vice president of the College Democrats, decided together that Beckelman would represent the group.
Milici criticized both the College Democrats and Republicans for what he considered a poor showing at the debate.
“The element in the room tonight was the apathy (of Democrats and Republicans),” Milici said.
Part of the problem, Geddis said, was that the debate was “very specific.” He said the College Republicans’ Feb. 22 debate had “a much more broad question base.”
Mark Waltzer, senior psychology major and president of Amnesty International as well as the moderator of the debate, thought that the debate was successful overall. He said that the debate’s goal, which was to “get information out there,” was accomplished.