Trump’s Pick for CIA Director Says He’s Open to Waterboarding
President Donald Trump’s pick to run the CIA, Rep. Mike Pompeo, has told Congress that he would consider bringing back waterboarding and other enhanced interrogation measures under certain circumstances.
In a series of written responses on Wednesday to questions from members of the Senate intelligence committee, Pompeo said that while current permitted interrogation techniques are limited to those contained in the Army Field Manual, he expressed an openness to making changes to that policy.
“If confirmed, I will consult with experts at the Agency and at other organizations in the US government on whether the Army Field Manual uniform application is an impediment to gathering vital intelligence to protect the country,” he wrote.
While Pompeo acknowledged interrogation practices like waterboarding are illegal under current law, he did not rule out seeking to have those laws modified.
“If experts believed current law was an impediment to gathering vital intelligence to protect the country, I would want to understand such impediments and whether any recommendations were appropriate for changing current law,” he said.
The revelation comes as Trump is due to visit CIA headquarters Saturday. The CIA is currently without a chief, as the Senate has delayed Pompeo’s confirmation vote until Monday, citing concerns about his positions on surveillance and other issues.
During his confirmation hearings, Pompeo offered a less nuanced response when asked about the revival of enhanced interrogation practices considered by many to be torture.
“Absolutely not,” he responded when asked if he would restart the program if ordered to do so by Trump. “Moreover, I can’t imagine I would be asked that by the President-elect.”
Pompeo told lawmakers they had his “full commitment” that the CIA was out of the enhanced interrogation business.
In 2014, Pompeo had supported the use of enhanced interrogation techniques publicly in Congress.
In his most recent responses to questions on the subject, Pompeo declined to address the effectiveness of such techniques, writing, “I understand the disagreement over the past use of waterboarding and whether information could have been obtained through other less coercive methods.”
He went on to cite a public CIA study conducted during the Barack Obama administration that found while the program had obtained intelligence, it was “unknowable” whether that information could have been acquired through other means.
Ret. Gen. John Kelly, Donald Trump’s newly confirmed Secretary of Homeland Security, told the Senate he would “absolutely” abide by US laws prohibiting the use of waterboarding and other forms of torture, breaking with Trump’s campaign promise to bring back waterboarding and “worse” forms of torture in the fight against terrorism.
“I don’t think we should ever come close to crossing a line that is beyond what we as Americans would expect to follow in terms of interrogation techniques,” he said, agreeing that the Geneva Conventions should continue to serve as a guide for the US.
And in an interview with The New York Times Trump said that his defense secretary, Ret. Gen. James Mattis, told him that waterboarding was not an effective tactic, saying he had better luck with “a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers.”