Amid escalating promises from Ted Cruz and Donald Trump to resort to torture to keep Americans safe, the current CIA director has said the agency won’t follow orders to torture terrorists ever again. His remarks were the clearest repudiation yet of the Bush-era policies which enabled the torture of suspected terrorists.
“I would not agree to having any CIA officer carrying out waterboarding again,” said CIA Director John Brennan in an interview with NBC on Monday. “I will not agree to carry out some of these tactics and techniques I’ve heard bandied about because this institution needs to endure.”
Both Cruz and Trump have promised to bring back forms of torture — although Cruz still calls it “enhanced interrogation” — to keep the country safe. “Don’t tell me it doesn’t work — torture works,” said Trump in February during a campaign event at a retirement community in South Carolina. “Believe me, it works.”
The CIA chief’s recent commitment not to torture in the future was a far cry from March 2005, ten years ago, when the agency said in written statement that “all approved interrogation techniques, both past and present, are lawful and do not constitute torture.” Another statement issued by Jennifer Millerwise Dyck, the agency’s director of public affairs, asserted that “C.I.A. policies on interrogation have always followed legal guidance from the Department of Justice.”
Of the 100 prisoners held in the agency’s global network of prisons, only three are known to have been waterboarded, according to The Washington Post. Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who claimed he was the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks, was waterboarded 183 times before the CIA stopped, fearing that they were losing their legal footing to do so.
The intelligence agency gained international notoriety in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks for flagrant violations of international law in its treatment of terror suspects, many of whom were detained without charge for years in Guantanamo Bay.
President Barack Obama signed an executive order shortly after entering office stating that only “non-coercive techniques of interrogation that are designed to elicit voluntary statements” would be allowed in the future.
Photo: Director of Central Intelligence Agency John Brennan takes questions from reporters during a press conference at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, December 11, 2014 (AFP/Jim Watson)