WASHINGTON (CN) — Torture works, President Donald Trump said Wednesday, the same day press secretary Sean Spicer denied that the White House was working on a draft executive order to reinstate the CIA interrogation program.
News of the remarks caught the eye of John Kiriakou, the first CIA analyst to publicly confirm that the intelligence agency used waterboarding, which he characterized as torture.
Kiriakou was prosecuted for disclosing classified information to journalists after he blew the whistle on the torture program in 2007. He spoke to Courthouse News on Thursday about the leaked executive order, the illegality of torture and the state of morale at the agency.
What are your impressions of the draft memo?
“Much of it frankly is illegal. I've argued that the torture program was illegal from the very start for a couple of reasons. First, we have a law in this country called the Federal Torture Act that specifically prohibits the kind of techniques that were used by the Bush administration. We're also signatories to the International Convention Against Torture. Indeed we were one of the drafters — the primary drafters — of the International Convention Against Torture.
“With that said, the Bush administration, the W. Bush administration, enacted a torture program. In response to that, of course, Senators John McCain and Diane Feinstein sponsored the McCain-Feinstein Amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act in 2015, which passed, and was signed into law. That prohibits the use of any techniques that are not delineated in the Army Field Manual.
“So what Donald Trump is doing, what he's advocating, is just simply illegal. It would take an act of Congress to reinstitute the torture program that he wants. Now besides that, what he's advocating is morally and ethically reprehensible. Even the American Psychological Association, the APA, which is the largest association of licensed psychologists in the world, has come out and said that it's immoral and unethical and it simply doesn't work.
“So Trump can tweet all he wants that torture works. It doesn't work. It's been conclusively proven that it doesn't work. Besides that, whether or not it works is not even the issue.
“Rape works, but we don't rape or sodomize prisoners. Murder works, but we don't murder them. My God, beating and sodomizing their children in front of them would work, but we don't do that. So it's not an issue of whether or not it works. It's an issue of whether or not it's moral, ethical and legal. And it is not.”
What do you make of Trump’s claim, in his interview with ABC News on Wednesday, that intelligence insiders have told him that torture works?
“The people that he's talking to are the people who created the torture program. So of course they're going to say it works because torture is their legacy. When people like George Tenet or Jose Rodriguez finally pass on, their obituaries are going to have these wonderful stories about the illustrious careers they had. But they're also going to say that they were instrumental in the creation and in the implementation of a torture program. What they are doing, it seems to me, they are repeating this lie over and over and over again that torture works, in the hope that eventually the American people believe it.”
The draft executive order that surfaced yesterday talks about reviving the CIA black sites. Did that come as a shock?
“I'm not surprised, to tell you the truth. And I'm very sad to say that. But I made a conclusion early on in the Republican campaign that we ought to take Donald Trump at his word. I didn't think that what he was saying was bravado. I thought that he was telling us exactly the kind of presidency that he would lead, and so far in six short days that's what we've got.”