Politics may be at play in the appearance of a draft presidential order that could revive the CIA’s “black site” prisons, one former CIA director says.
The appearance of the document, first reported by the New York Times, drew an immediate outcry from both Democratic and Republican lawmakers, as well as CIA veterans.
The draft order calls for a review of the interrogation practices permitted under current U.S. law and whether the CIA should reopen its once-secret network of overseas prisons. But former CIA Director Michael Hayden says he thinks it is more about sending a message than laying serious plans.
“My instinct is this is a way of reflecting the tough language from the campaign, not a commitment to change anything,” Hayden told NPR. “I cannot imagine a CIA director saying, ‘It’s going to be OK to open a future black site.’ I mean, we’re not doing this again.”
President Donald Trump endorsed outlawed interrogation methods during the presidential campaign, telling a crowd in South Carolina: “Torture works, OK, folks? Believe me. It works, OK? And waterboarding is your minor form, but we should go much stronger than waterboarding.”
Trump repeated his support for waterboarding in an interview with ABC News scheduled to air on Wednesday evening, according to previews released by the network. But he also told anchor David Muir that he would defer to Defense Secretary James Mattis and CIA Director Mike Pompeo about whether to use it.
Lawmakers who oversaw the CIA’s previous interrogation and detention programs were quick to criticize the proposals.
“The president can sign whatever executive orders he likes,” Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a statement. “But the law is the law. We are not bringing back torture in the United States of America.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat who oversaw the production of a 6,700-page classified report on CIA detention and interrogation programs during her tenure as chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, also offered a scathing response.
“Reconstituting this appalling program would compromise our values, our morals and our standing as a world leader — this cannot happen,” she wrote. “I encourage President Trump to not sign the damaging and dangerous executive order that has been circulating. Read the [Senate] report, declassify it and let the American people see for themselves how the program failed to work — I believe…