The CIA was justified when it waterboarded terrorism suspects in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina told Yahoo News on Monday, saying there was “there was no other way to get information” from those suspects.
Adding to her reputation as an advocate of aggressive military and counterterrorism measures, Fiorina explicitly rejected a 2014 Senate report which found that waterboarding and other “enhanced interrogation techniques” never prevented a single terrorist attack. Instead, she said it helped “keep our nation safe.”
“I believe that all of the evidence is very clear — that waterboarding was used in a very small handful of cases [and] was supervised by medical personnel in every one of those cases,” Fiorina said, according to Yahoo News. “And I also believe that waterboarding was used when there was no other way to get information that was necessary.”
Waterboarding — deemed “torture” by the International Committee of the Red Cross and most everyone who has endured it — involves strapping someone down, covering their face with cloth, and pouring water over their face. It essentially convinces the victim that they are drowning.
Fiorina is not the first presidential candidate to defend George W. Bush-era counterterrorism tactics, including torture. At the second Republican debate, former Florida governor Jeb Bush said his brother’s strategy after 9/11 ” kept us safe,” and previously said he’d been open to repealing the current ban on certain techniques. Donald Trump has also said he would be open to waterboarding, while Sen. Marco Rubio and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson have both refused to say what kind of interrogation tactics they would support.
The comments are also not the first Fiorina has made in defense of aggressive military and counterterorrism measures. On the campaign trail in Iowa this weekend, she touted her unique foreign policy experience, which includes a top-level security clearance and a two-year stint as the chair of the the CIA’s External Advisory Board. The former Hewlett-Packard CEO also advocated providing bombs and other military equipment to countries fighting ISIS in the Middle East, as well as investing more money into the U.S. Nuclear Triad.
“We must have the strongest military on the face of the planet, and everyone has to know,” she said, adding that she wants to decrease the power of the Pentagon bureaucracy while increasing investments in weaponry.
“We are going to have to invest and rebuild our military, much the same way that Ronald Reagan had to decades ago,” she said, echoing what she said during the second Republican debate. “And that means specifically about 50 Army brigades, it means about 36 marine battalions, about 350 naval battleships, it means reinvesting in the Nuclear Triad.” The numbers are nearly identical to those advocated by the conservative Heritage Foundation.
Her plan to build up the military would also be expensive — according to The Daily Beast, it would add $500 billion to the $5 trillion the Pentagon already plans to spend over the next 10 years. Fiorina has not yet laid out her plan for how to pay for that increase.
For that, and her assertion that America needs “the strongest military on the face of the planet,” Fiorina has faced some criticism — even from conservatives. “[The] U.S. already has by far the strongest military in the world, and everyone (with the possible exception of the 2016 Republican field) is well aware of this,” The American Conservative’s Daniel Larison wrote last week. ” It is an extraordinarily expensive and unnecessary commitment, and it is being made at a time when the U.S. faces no peer competitor and faces the fewest major threats it has known in decades.”