US President Donald Trump has made it clear that he wants to "fight fire with fire" when it comes to stopping terrorism, suggesting that he could be open to reinstating harsh interrogation techniques like waterboarding because he "absolutely" believes it works.
When asked about the effectiveness of waterboarding, Trump said he "absolutely" believes it works, but would defer to his CIA and Pentagon chiefs advice on whether to reinstate the harsh interrogation techniques widely seen as torture.
"When they're chopping off the heads of our people and other people. When they're chopping off the heads of people because they happen to be a Christian in the Middle East, when the Islamic State (IS) 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," Trump told ABC News.
Trump would go against a US law ratified by the Senate in 2015, if he reinstates enhanced interrogation techniques.
The President, however, said he would rely on the advice of his top national security advisors on this issue.
"If they do wanna do it, then I will work toward that end. I want to do everything within the bounds of what you're allowed to do legally," Trump said.
"But do I feel it works? Absolutely, I feel it works," he asserted. "I'm going to go with what they say. But I have spoken as recently as 24 hours ago with people at the highest level of intelligence, and I asked them the question 'Does it work? Does torture work?' And the answer was 'Yes, absolutely," said the new US President.
His comments came amidst media reports that the Trump administration is drafting an order allowing the CIA to reopen overseas "black site" prisons used to torture 9/11 suspects. However, denying the media reports, the White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said that the said draft was not a White House document. "It is not a White House document. I have no idea where it came from, but it is not a White House document," Spicer told reporters at his daily news conference.
Several of Trump's own party colleagues were, however, critical of the reported draft.
"The President can sign whatever executive orders he likes. But the law is the law. We are not bringing back torture in the US," said Senator John McCain, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
McCain said the Army Field Manual does not include waterboarding or other forms of enhanced interrogation. "Furthermore, the law requires any revisions to the field manual be made available to the public 30 days prior to the date the revisions take effect," he said.
Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy asked the Trump administration to denounce the draft if it did not originate at the White House. "Torture is wrong, illegal, and it doesn't work," he said.