On Saturday, during his first public address at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, President Donald Trump took an opportunity to reiterate his confidence in Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS), his nominee to head the intelligence agency. Around the same time, CNN revealed that Pompeo is open to torture.
At his confirmation hearing last week, Pompeo initially broke with Trump over the issue of waterboarding, which Trump promised to bring back despite remaining illegal under U.S and international law. But in a series of written responses to the Senate Intelligence Committee, which were revealed on Saturday, Pompeo appeared to change his tune on torture and open the door for future waterboarding.
“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. The Army Field Manual currently prohibits the use of waterboarding and other forms of torture.
“I like it a lot,” Trump said of waterboarding during the campaign. “I don’t think it’s tough enough.” But lawmakers and intelligence officials agree that waterboarding—like all forms of torture—is ineffective and a violation of the Geneva Conventions. Sen. John McCain, himself a former prisoner of war subjected to torture, has been the most outspoken Republican in Congress opposed to state-sponsored torture. Despite endorsing Trump during the campaign, he has vowed to oppose any efforts to restore waterboarding to the CIA playbook.
“I don’t give a damn what the president of the United States wants to do. We will not waterboard. We will not do it,” he said on stage at the Halifax International Security Forum shortly after the election last year.
Pompeo is a longtime defender of Bush-era interrogation techniques. He criticized Democrats in the Senate for releasing a 2014 report outlining past interrogation efforts—which resulted in Congress overwhelmingly voting to ban waterboarding, rectal feeding, and other forms of torture—and defended torturers as “patriots”.