In his first interview as United States president, Donald Trump has said that he believes torture “absolutely works” and that the U.S. should “fight fire with fire”.

This is despite the fact that numerous experts in the field have strongly warned against, and condemned, such action.

  • Torture violates not only the Geneva Conventions but also the U.S. constitution and values.
  • The Senate voted overwhelmingly to ban torture across the US government in 2015.
  • CIA Director Pompeo and Defence Secretary Mattis have previously guaranteed that torture would not be re-implemented.
  • Trump to bring ‘black sites’ back
  • War hero Senator John McCain leading fight against torture

In the interview with ABC News, Trump said he would defer the determination of what can and cannot be done legally to Mike Pompeo and James “Mad Dog” Mattis.

“We’re not playing on an even field,” Trump said. “I want to do everything within the bounds of what you’re allowed to do legally”. But on the efficacy of waterboarding, Trump was sure: “Absolutely I feel it works”, he said.

“When Isis is doing things that nobody has ever heard of since medieval times. Would I feel strongly about waterboarding. As far as I’m concerned we have to fight fire with fire.”

Trump is apparently getting his information from intelligence chiefs that he asked this week, “The answer was yes, absolutely,” he said.

He went on to say that 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.”

 

“Black sites” to be reinstated

Trump is reportedly planning to sign another executive order that would allow the detention of terrorist suspects at facilities known as “black sites”.

Doing this would remove the limitations on interrogation techniques that were set by a long-standing army field manual, intended to preserve the humane nature of military interrogations, compliant with the Geneva Conventions.

Mattis and Pompeo were reportedly “blindsided” by the news of the draft order.

 

Resistance

Trump fortunately will face resistance to the reintroduction of torture.

Senator John McCain has been an outspoken critic of the method. He is himself a torture survivor and co-author of the 2015 law banning the US security agencies from using interrogation techniques beyond those set out in the US army field manual.

“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,” said McCain.

CIA Director Pompeo and Defence Secretary Mattis made explicit guarantees during their Senate confirmation hearings that they would follow the interrogations law, and the army field manual. “I am confident these leaders will be true to their word,” McCain said.

Leon Panetta, the former head of the CIA who gave the orders to close the black sites, said it would be a “mistake” to reintroduce these techniques, as they would be damaging to the reputation of the US.

Steve Kleinman, a retired air force colonel and chairman of the research advisory committee to the High Value Detainee Interrogation Group, has warned that weakening US laws against such interrogation tactics would mean significant consequences for national security.

“If the US was to make it once again the policy of the country to coerce, and to detain at length in an extrajudicial fashion, the costs would be beyond substantial – they’d be potentially existential,” he said.

Senator John Thune, a South Dakota Republican, said the use of torture is “settled law” and that “Congress has spoken.”

Senator Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, said “Reconstituting this appalling program would compromise our values, our morals and our standing as a world leader — this cannot happen. We can’t base national security policies on what works on television — policies must be grounded in reality.”

Mark Fallon, who was the deputy chief of Guantánamo’s Bush-era investigative taskforce for military tribunals, said: “It does appear like a subterfuge to enact more brutal methods because that was what candidate Trump campaigned on during the election.”

Watch the full interview with Trump on ABC here: