Donald Trump ‘absolutely’ believes torture works

US president considers reinstating waterboarding as an interrogation method

Donald Trump talks about using torture to battle terrorism in an interview with ABC. Video: ABC


US President Donald Trump has said he “absolutely” believes that torture works and would consider reinstating waterboarding as an interrogating method because “we have to fight fire with fire.”

Mr Trump said he would consult defence secretary James Mattis and CIA director Mike Pompeo on whether to consider using the technique against Islamic State militants in the Middle East.

Mr Mattis is opposed to bringing back interrogation techniques that President Barack Obama banned shortly after taking office in 2009.

Mr Pompeo told US senators earlier this month that he would not sanction the use of torture, though he later said he would be open to changes in interrogation techniques permitted by the US military.

The new US president said that he would defer to both men on his decision on the issue.

“I will rely on Pompeo and Mattis and my group. And if they won’t want to do it, that’s fine. If they do wanna do, then I will work towards that end. I want to do everything within the bounds of what you’re allowed to do legally,” the president told ABC News in his first interview at the White House.

“But do I feel it works? Absolutely, I feel it works.”

Mr Trump made his remarks amid reports that his administration has drafted an order indicating that he is considering a review of interrogation methods and may potentially reopen the CIA’s so-called “black site” prisons outside the US where terror suspects were tortured.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters at Wednesday’s daily press briefing that the draft order was “not a White House document” but would not provide further details.

‘Chopping off heads’

Resurrecting one of the most controversial issues of his presidential campaign, Mr Trump argued in his ABC News interview that he would bring back waterboarding because the US was “not playing on even field” relative to the atrocities that the Islamic State fighters were carrying out.

“When they’re chopping off the heads of our people and other people. When they’re chopping off the heads of people because they happen to be a Christian in the Middle East, when Isis is doing things that nobody has ever heard of since medieval times, would I feel strongly about waterboarding?” he asked. “As far as I’m concerned, we have to fight fire with fire.”

Mr Trump said he had spoken to “people at the highest level of intelligence” as recently as 24 hours earlier and that he asked them whether they believed torture worked.

“And the answer was, ‘yes, absolutely,’” he said.

During the 2016 campaign, Mr Trump said he would “bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding” to fight the Islamic State, but he later softened his position, saying that he would not order the military to break international law.

Shortly after the election, the businessman said that he met Mr Mattis, a retired US marine general, who told him he would “do better with a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers” than with torture.

Mr Trump told the New York Times after their meeting in November that he was “very impressed” with Mr Mattis and his view that waterboarding was ineffective.

During his Senate confirmation, Mr Pompeo said that he would “absolutely not” reinstate what the US military officially calls “enhanced interrogation techniques.”

Waterboarding, which is considered to be an act of torture, simulates drowning and involves water being poured over the face of an individual covered with a cloth or similar material.

The “enhanced interrogation programme” was introduced in 2002 in the aftermath of the September 11th, 2001 attacks on the US but was not publicly acknowledged by President George W Bush until 2006.

A report published in 2014 by Democrats on the Senate intelligence committee said that the CIA’s interrogation programme was more brutal than previously thought and that it failed to yield worthwhile intelligence that could not have been obtained through more traditional methods.