CIA Director John Brennan said in a weekend interview with NBC News that his agency will not reinstate waterboarding under a new president, regardless of what that president wants. In other words, he would not allow a President Ted Cruz or Donald Trump to bring back torture.
"I would not agree to having any CIA officer carrying out waterboarding again," Brennan told NBC, adding, "I will not agree to carry out some of these tactics and techniques I've heard bandied about because this institution needs to endure."
Waterboarding, along with other "enhanced interrogation techniques," is a form of torture that was used in Guantanamo Bay and other secret CIA prisons to try to glean information from suspected terrorists. The practice proved ineffective, and was banned by President Obama in 2009.
That hasn't stopped GOP presidential candidates Trump and Cruz to each say that as president, waterboarding would be on the table. Cruz insinuated this by saying that waterboarding isn't torture. "It is enhanced interrogation,it is vigorous interrogation, but it does not meet the generally recognized definition of torture," he stated in February. Cruz then clarified, explaining that he'd use enhanced interrogation "as commander-in-chief, I would use whatever enhanced interrogation methods we could to keep this country safe."
Trump, on the other hand, said explicitly during a February Republican debate that he'd "bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding," and doubled down on his promise to loosen anti-torture laws last month. He said on CBS's Face the Nation that "we have an enemy in the Middle East that's chopping off heads and drowning people in massive steel cages…we have an enemy that doesn't play by the laws. You could say laws, and they're laughing. They're laughing at us right now. I would like to strengthen the laws so that we can better compete."
Both candidates have a history of attempting to revive immoral and ineffective efforts to protect Americans from terrorism, specifically by saying that they'd bring back the NYPD's Muslim spying program.
Trump repeated these statements in response to Brennan's assertion. "I mean, they chop off heads and they drown people in cages…in big steel, heavy cages, drop ‘em right into the water, drown people and we can’t waterboard and we can’t do anything," he told Fox & Friends in a phone interview on Monday morning. He added, “Well I think [Brennan's] comments are ridiculous."
Danielle Wiener-Bronner is a news reporter.