Donald Trump may be seeking to reinstate torture methods for detained terrorist suspects

By Gavin Fernando

Donald Trump has hinted at a massive shake-up of how the United States conducts its war on terror.

The new President has openly declared he believes torture works, saying he'd be willing to wage war against terrorists using techniques so brutal they were outlawed by the previous administration.

Meanwhile, an unconfirmed draft executive order has been leaked that, if issued, could see the CIA bring brutal torture techniques back into secret prisons under the Trump administration.

The Senate overwhelmingly voted to ban torture across the US government in 2015, and already Trump is facing a backlash from senior members of his own party over his brash remarks.

TRUMP SAYS TORTURE 'ABSOLUTELY WORKS'

Trump has spoken positively of using torture since he entered the White House.
In an interview with ABC's World News Tonight which will air in full this afternoon, he said "people at the highest level of intelligence" told him that torture does work.

"When they (Islamic State) are 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? As far as I'm concerned we have to fight fire with fire."

He argued that, while the terror group is beheading people and sharing the videos online, the US was "not allowed to do anything".

"We're not playing on an even field," 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."

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump, along with their son Barron. Photo / AP
President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump, along with their son Barron. Photo / AP

He said he would rely on the guidance of his CIA director Mike Pompeo and defence secretary James Mattis to determine whether the administration would enable torture.
"I will rely on Pompeo and Mattis and my group and if they don't want to do it that's fine. If they do, then I will work towards that end. I want to do everything within the balance you are allowed to do legally.

"But do I feel it works? Absolutely I feel it works."

TRUMP HINTS AT REINSTATING BANNED TECHNIQUES

During his election campaign, Trump pledged to bring back torture techniques that would be "a hell of a lot worse" than the simulated drowning method known as waterboarding.

Likewise, at a rally last February, he confirmed he would keep Guantánamo Bay filled with "bad dudes" if he won the election.

"This morning, I watched President Obama talking about Gitmo, right, Guantánamo Bay, which by the way, which by the way, we are keeping open," he said at a campaign rally in Sparks, Nevada. "We're gonna load it up with some bad dudes, believe me, we're gonna load it up."

The New York Times recently obtained Trump's three-page draft order, titled "Detention and Interrogation of Enemy Combatants".

The report, published in full by the Times, calls for the revocation of the executive orders put in place by the Obama administration in 2009.

Under Obama, the US government - including the military, CIA and FBI - was banned from using torture techniques on Guantánamo Bay Bay detainees carrying out hunger strikes.

The prohibited methods included waterboarding, extended sleep deprivation, standing in painful "stress positions" on broken feet or legs, and forced "rectal feeding" when detainees went on hunger strikes.

The order also banned offshore "black sites" - secretive military projects kept hidden from the public.

President Donald Trump, accompanied by Vice President Mike Pence. Photo / AP
President Donald Trump, accompanied by Vice President Mike Pence. Photo / AP

The document has not been verified, and White House spokesman Sean Spicer was quick to distance the President from its content.

"It is not a White House document," Spicer told reporters. "This is the second day we are getting asked about documents that are floating around and people saying - frankly - reports being published attributing documents to the White House that are not White House documents. To the best of my knowledge, he has not seen it."

Trump's endorsement of torture has already sparked a backlash within his own party.
Arizona senator John McCain, who ran for the top job in 2008, warned that him and his colleagues would prevent Trump from bringing back torture.

"We are not bringing back torture," he said in a statement. "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."

Likewise, Senate Republican Conference chairman John Thune said today that Congress would likely oppose any attempts to reinstate the use of torture against suspected terrorists.

"With respect to torture, that's banned," Thune said at a press conference at the GOP's policy retreat in Philadelphia. "The Army Field Manual makes that very clear, and the law now is tied to the Army Field Manual."

DOES TORTURE REALLY WORK?

While Trump claims experts have told him torture does work, many politicians and academics disagree.

In December 2014, a publicly available document entitled the Senate Intelligence Committee report was released, detailing the US's history of torture.

It found that the CIA's own officers had told it that torturing was a pointless task.
"CIA officers regularly called into question whether the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques were effective, assessing that the use of the techniques failed to elicit detainee co-operation or produce accurate intelligence," the report stated.

"The committee reviewed 20 of the most frequent and prominent examples of purported counter-terrorism successes that the CIA has attributed to the use of its enhanced interrogation techniques, and found them to be wrong in fundamental respects.

"In some cases," the report concluded, "there was no relationship between the cited counter-terrorism success and any information provided by detainees during or after the use of the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques."

In some cases, the detained subjects even deliberately gave "intentionally misleading" information, suggesting the use of torture could be counter-productive.

"Evidence gained from torture is unreliable," Ali Soufan, a former FBI agent who supervised interrogations of high-value terrorists after September 11, writes in his 2011 book The Black Banners. "There is no way to know whether the detainee is being truthful, or just speaking to either mitigate his discomfort or deliberately provide false information."

In 2015, Newsweek interviewed former federal agent Mark and chair of the High Value Detainee Interrogation Group's (HIG) research committee Mark Fallon.

Fallon said numerous recommendations - such as belittling detainees or suggesting bad things would happen to them - were "very ineffective".

"I don't want to force people to tell me things," he said, "because then they will tell me things they don't even know."

Meanwhile Steve Kleinman, a retired air force colonel and chairman of the research advisory committee to the HIG, warned rescinding the executive order against torture could have massive security consequences.

"If the US was to make it once again the policy of the country to coerce, and to detain at length in an extrajudicial fashion, the costs would be beyond substantial - they'd be potentially existential. We've seen how (torture) promotes violent extremism, how it degrades alliances. We've seen how it only serves to provide information that policymakers want to support (desired policies), not what they need," he told The Guardian.

He emphasised he was not speaking on behalf of the HIG, but said: "A lot of these people who weigh in heavily on interrogation have no idea how little they know, (and do so) because of what they see on television."

- news.com.au

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