— ABC News (@ABC) January 26, 2017
In his first TV interview as president, Donald Trump told ABC News that he believes that torture “absolutely” works, adding that, when it comes to terrorism, the U.S. should “fight fire with fire.”
He added that when he asked intelligence chiefs earlier that week if torture works, “The answer was yes, absolutely.” When the interviewer asked Trump if waterboarding was an efficient interrogation method, he said: “Absolutely I feel it works.”
Finally, Trump summarized his sentiments by saying terrorist groups “chop off the citizens’ or anybody’s heads in the Middle East, because they’re Christian or Muslim or anything else… we have that and we’re not allowed to do anything. We’re not playing on an even field.”
However, Trump declared that he would listen to defense secretary James Mattis, and CIA director Mike Pompeo to decide what U.S. forces will do when carrying out interrogations. Both have publicly come out against torturing military prisoners.
For example, Trump once told The New York Times: “[Mattis] said – I was surprised – he said, ‘I’ve never found [torture] to be useful.’ He said, ‘I’ve always found, give me a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers and I do better with that than I do with torture’.”
Meanwhile, former CIA director Leon Panetta told BBC World News: “The reality is we really don’t need to use enhanced interrogation in order to get the information that is required.” He added that torture was a violation of U.S. values and its constitution.
Nevertheless, Trump is soon expected to sign an executive order reinstating “black sites” facilities (where torture has been used in the past) to detain terrorism suspects, a move that reportedly “blindsided” Mattis and Pompeo, according to Politico.
This reinstatement would eliminate military restrictions on interrogation techniques. The current procedures, established by a longstanding Army field manual, meet the standards of the Geneva Conventions and are intended to guarantee that the military carries out humane interrogations.
Republican Senator John McCain, who was tortured during the Vietnam War, said that, “the president can sign whatever executive orders he likes. But the law is the law. We are not bringing back torture in the United States of America.”
McCain, who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he was “confident these leaders will be true to their word,” referring to Pompeo and Mattis’ explicit promises to follow the 2015 interrogation law and the Army field manual during their Senate confirmation proceedings.
The 2015 law, co-authored by McCain, specifically prevents U.S. agencies from using any interrogation techniques that exceed those established in the U.S. Army field manual.