Trump says torture ‘absolutely’ works

It’s not the only violation of international law the president has openly considered since taking office.

CREDIT: ABC screengrab

During an interview with ABC News, President Trump said he “absolutely” thinks torture works as a counterterrorism strategy and refused to rule out bringing it back, despite the fact doing so would constitute a violation of international law.

“I have spoken, as recently as 24 hours ago, with people at the highest level of intelligence, and I ask them the question — ‘does it work? Does torture work?’” Trump said. “And the answer was, ‘yes, absolutely.’”

But Trump added that he will follow the guidance given to him by Secretary of State James Mattis and CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

“I will rely on Pompeo and Mattis and my group, and if they don’t want to do it that’s fine, and if they wanna do [it] then I will work toward that end,” Trump said. “I want to do everything within the bounds of what you’re allowed to do legally. [But] do I feel it works? Absolutely I feel it works.”

During the campaign, Trump endorsed breaking international law by bringing back waterboarding and other forms of torture that are “a hell of a lot worse.”

Pompeo has indicated he is willing to at least hear Trump out. In a series of responses to the Senate Intelligence Committee that were made public over the weekend, Pompeo signaled a willingness to bring back torture, writing that he’s open to revising the Army Field Manual that currently prohibits waterboarding and other forms of torture.

“If confirmed, I will consult with experts at the Agency and at other organizations in the U.S. government on whether the Army Field Manual uniform application is an impediment to gathering vital intelligence to protect the country,” Pompeo wrote.

Mattis, however, has taken a stronger stance against torture. In November, recounting a conversation they had together, Trump said Mattis told him he doesn’t believe torture produces good intelligence.

‘“Give me a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers and I’ll do better,”’ Mattis said, according to Trump.

Trump’s comments about his belief in the efficacy of torture stands in contrast to a report issued by the Senate Intelligence Committee in late 2014. That report found “the use of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques [under President Bush] was not an effective means of obtaining accurate information or gaining detainee cooperation.” The report says many tortured detainees “fabricated information, resulting in faulty intelligence.”

Those conclusions were echoed by a nonpartisan group of former national security, law enforcement, and interrogation professionals, who last year wrote a letter asking all Republican presidential candidates to reject torture.

“Torture is not only illegal and immoral; it is counterproductive,” they wrote. “It tends to produce unreliable information because it degrades a detainee’s ability to recall and transmit information, undermines trust in the interrogator, and often prompts a detainee to relay false information that he believes the interrogator wants to hear. It also increases the risk that our troops will be tortured, hinders cooperation with allies, alienates populations whose support the United States needs in the struggle against terrorism, and provides a propaganda tool for extremists who wish to do us harm.”

Trump’s comments on torture came on the same day the New York Times reported that the Trump administration “is preparing a sweeping executive order that would clear the way for the C.I.A. to reopen overseas ‘black site’ prisons, like those where it detained and tortured terrorism suspects before former President Barack Obama shut them down.”

During a news conference Wednesday, Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the executive order the New York Times obtained isn’t a White House document, but refused to answer questions as to whether Trump is considering the policies it outlines.

In response to Trump’s latest comments about torture, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) — who himself was tortured as a POW in Vietnam — released a statement that said, “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.”

Bringing back torture isn’t the only type of violation of international law Trump has openly considered since his inauguration. During his bizarre speech to the CIA on Saturday, President Donald Trump lamented that the U.S. military didn’t steal Iraq’s oil during the second Iraq war. He also suggested the military might get another opportunity.

“We should’ve kept the oil… maybe you’ll have another chance,” Trump said.

On Monday, Press Secretary Sean Spicer was given a chance to walk back Trump’s comments about taking Iraqi oil. Instead, he said Trump won’t “take options off the table.”