CIA Says No More Waterboarding, Even By Executive Order — But What Do The Candidates Say?

John Brennan’s time at the CIA has been dogged by international outrage over enhanced interrogation techniques, but “no more waterboarding” seems be the agency’s clear policy going forward.

CIA says no more waterboarding candidates positions
While Guantanamo Bay remains open, the CIA says no more wateboarding or other enhanced interrogation techniques will be carried out there going forward. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

No matter who wins the upcoming elections, John says the practice will not return. In an interview that was aired on Sunday on NBC News, Brennan stated that the CIA would never employ any such method again.

“I will not agree to carry out some of these tactics and techniques I’ve heard bandied about because this institution needs to endure.”

When pressed about waterboarding specifically — perhaps the most emblematic of the controversial interrogation techniques — he was, as the newscaster noted, “unequivocal.”

“Absolutely, I would not agree to having any CIA officer carrying out waterboarding again.”

With multiple ISIS attacks taking place around the world during this presidential election cycle, the topic of enhanced interrogation has come up with every single one of the remaining viable candidates. For some of them, John’s position will be at odds with their proposed continuation of the use of waterboarding.

Donald Trump

It’s hard to say which of the two Republican candidates have a more hard-line stance on the use of waterboarding, but Trump’s comments have perhaps stirred up the most controversy. At the New Hampshire GOP debate in February, Trump said that not only would he bring back waterboarding, but “a hell of a lot worse,” reported The Guardian.

These comments were probably nor shocking to anyone who had followed his earlier campaign statements on the topic. At a November rally in Columbus, Ohio, he told a crowd that they could “bet their a*s” he would be bringing back waterboarding because “it works.” He also said that interrogation subjects “deserve it anyway for what they do to us.”

Hillary Clinton

Donald Trump also continued to profess his support for waterboarding in the wake of last month’s attack on Brussels, which warranted a question to Hillary Clinton about the practice on The Today Show. Clinton underlined her opposition to the method, even touching on the chilling effect it had on America’s relationship with the rest of the world, reported Talking Points Memo.

“As to waterboarding, you know, our country’s most experienced and bravest military leaders will tell you that torture is not effective. It does put our own soldiers and increasingly our own civilians at risk… We do have to give law enforcement and intelligence professionals all the tools they need to do the job to keep America safe and they don’t need to resort to torture, but they are going to need more help.”

Ted Cruz


At that same New Hampshire debate where Trump promised to exceed waterboarding, Ted Cruz also made his position on the topic clear. According to Cruz, waterboarding isn’t even torture.

“Well under the definition of torture, no it’s not. Under the law, torture is excruciating pain that is equivalent to losing organs and systems. So under the definition it is not. It is enhanced interrogation, it is vigorous interrogation, but it does not meet the generally recognized definition of torture.”

CIA says no more waterboarding candidates positions
With the CIA refuses to waterboard in the future, it's possible that no president will ever even be able to condone the practice again. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Bernie Sanders

For Bernie Sanders, saying “no more waterboarding” has been a central part of his campaign platform. Sanders has promised to close Guantanamo Bay entirely, according to his campaign website.

“The U.S. must never again embrace torture as a matter of official policy. In an increasingly brutal world, the wanton use of torture by the Bush administration simply meant we lost our moral standing to condemn others who engage in merciless behavior. That is why Sen. Sanders has consistently spoken out against waterboarding and other forms of extreme ‘enhanced interrogation.'”

[Image via Mark Wilson/Getty Images]