During tonight’s presidential debates, candidates were asked whether they would support the use of waterboarding — a technique, defined as torture by the Justice Department, that simulates drowning and makes the subject “believe his death is imminent while ideally not causing permanent physical damage.”
Both former mayor Rudy Giuliani and Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) suggested they would support using the technique. Specifically asked about waterboarding, Giuliani said he would allow “every method [interrogators] could think of and I would support them in doing it.” Tancredo later added, “I’m looking for Jack Bauer,” referencing the television character who has used torture techniques such as suffocation and electrocution on prisoners.
The audience applauded loudly after both statements. Watch it:
During the debate last year over loosening the definition of torture, Gen. Colin Powell declared, “The world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism. To redefine Common Article 3 [of the Geneva Conventions]…would put our own troops at risk.” Earlier this year, the U.S. Army dispatched a general to tell producers of the television show 24 that its promotion of torture “was having a damaging effect on young troops.”
HUME: Mayor Giuliani, the former Director of Central Intelligence, George Tenet, the current head of the CIA have both said that the most valuable intelligence tool they have had has been the information gained from what are called “enhanced interrogation techniques,” to include, presumably, waterboarding. What is your view whether such techniques should be applied in a scenario like the one I described?
GIULIANI: In the hypothetical that you gave me, which assumes that we know there is going to be another attack and these people know about it, I would tell the people who had to do the interrogation to use every method they can think of. Shouldn’t be torture, but every method they can think of.
HUME: Water boarding?
GIULIANI: I would say every method they could think of, and I would support them in doing that because I have seen — [applause] — I have seen what can happen when you make a mistake about this and I don’t want to see another 3,000 people dead in New York or any place else.
TANCREDO: I just say that it’s almost unbelievable to listen to this in a way. We are talking about it in such a theoretical fashion. You say that nuclear devices have gone off in the United States, more are planned, and we are wondering about whether waterboarding would a bad thing to do? I’m look for Jack Bauer at that time, let me tell you. [applause] There is nothing — if you are talking about — I mean, we are the last best hope of Western Civilization. So all of the theories that go behind our activities, subsequent to these nuclear attacks going off in the United States, they go out the window. When we go under, western civilization goes under. So you better take that into account and you better do every single thing you can as President of the United States to make sure, number one, it doesn’t happen, that’s right. But, number two, you better respond in a way that makes them fearful of you, because, otherwise, you guarantee something like this will happen.