As many of you know, one of the main reasons I believe that Donald Trump should have been pushed out of the race long ago is his blatant disregard for international law. Most notably, he has publicly vowed to bring back waterboarding “and a hell of a lot worse” in the name of protecting the country from terrorism. Well, the chief of the agency that would be responsible for interrogating terror suspects let it be known in no uncertain terms that this sordid chapter of our history will never be reopened, even if a future president wants to go that route.
CIA director John Brennan sat down for an interview with NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel. The interview is due to air on Monday’s edition of “NBC Nightly News,” but you can watch a clip here. When Engel asked him if the CIA would ever authorize waterboarding in the future, the nation’s chief spy replied with virtually no hesitation:
“Absolutely, I would not agree to having any CIA officer carrying out waterboarding again.”
For those who missed it, one of President Obama’s first acts in 2009 was to issue an executive order which banned waterboarding and other “enhanced interrogation techniques”–practices which, by any reasonable definition, are torture. Congress wrote that ban into law in 2015. However, Trump has declared that he will not only work to overturn that ban, but wouldn’t hesitate to waterboard terror suspects once such a ban were overturned. Ted Cruz has also refused to rule out bringing back such techniques if he were elected president.
However, Brennan said that even if the CIA were legally able to engage in such practices again, it will not do so “because this institution needs to endure.” Cliff Notes version: Brennan knows that if a future president were to order the use of waterboarding, it would be a blatant violation of international law. As we all know, there is no such thing as obedience to an unlawful order.
But wait a minute. How do we know if Brennan’s vow would be honored by his successors? Well, most intelligence officials who don’t have their heads up their rear ends know that waterboarding and kindred techniques simply do not work. It seems hard to believe that Brennan would go out on this limb unless he and other career CIA officials decided that enhanced interrogation techniques are torture, and torture is completely unacceptable. Anyone who thinks otherwise is not morally fit to serve this country. Period, full stop.
As I write this on Sunday night, there has been no response from Trump or Cruz. We can only hope that they have finally realized that any attempt to bring back torture will be DOA.