Thursday’s news of a potential Trump Cabinet shuffle is exciting conservatives, with an indication that CIA Director Mike Pompeo could be tapped to replace the failing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
But it’s upsetting others, as Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., has been floated as a possible Pompeo replacement at the Central Intelligence Agency.
Sen. Cotton’s rumored appointment has disturbed opponents of waterboarding. One former CIA interrogator, who spoke to the Daily Beast, panned Cotton as “wholly unfit to be CIA director” over Cotton’s belief in the effectiveness of waterboarding.
“Those of us with some knowledge and objectivity have pointed out endlessly that torture does not work, is illegal, is unnecessary and harms the perpetrators of it,” retired CIA operations officer Glenn Carle said.
“Waterboarding isn’t torture,” Cotton told CNN last November, amid heated debate over the enhanced interrogation technique.
"If experienced, intelligence professionals come to the president of the United States and say, 'we think this terrorist has critical information and we need to obtain it, and this is the only way we can obtain it,' that's a tough call but the presidency is a tough job and if you're not willing to make those tough calls, then you shouldn't seek the office. Donald Trump is a pretty tough guy and he's ready to make those tough calls,” he said.
“Tom Cotton at present remains clueless about torture. He seems to base his beliefs on the efficacy of torture on B-movies and dog-eared Tom Clancy novels,” former Navy interrogation-resistance instructor Malcolm Nance told the Daily Beast.
There are, of course, experts who think differently. James Mitchell, the CIA officer who personally interrogated 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, believes that enhanced interrogation techniques were instrumental in breaking “KSM.”
“In our case, it is not as if we had unlimited time to see if we could buddy up to terrorists to find out if another attack was on the horizon,” Mitchell wrote in an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal last year.
“For example, not long after 9/11 the CIA was told of an al-Qaeda effort to obtain nuclear fissionable material. When KSM was captured in 2003, we asked whether another major attack was in the works, and he responded, ‘soon you will know.’ We didn’t have time to dither.”
In this same op-ed, Mitchell also criticized a 2014 Senate Intelligence Committee report that purports to show waterboarding was ineffective torture.
“Critics will point to the 2014 Senate Intelligence Committee report that declared enhanced interrogation didn’t work. The investigation cost $40 million and took five years, yet investigators didn’t even speak to anyone involved in the program. Anyway, a report produced by an extremely partisan congressional committee deserves skepticism to begin with,” Mitchell wrote.
Mitchell personally waterboarded the only three terrorists known to be subjected to the tactic by the CIA, and was waterboarded himself. He is convinced it is not torture.
“I volunteered to be waterboarded myself and can assure you that it is not a pleasant experience. But no one volunteers to be tortured,” he said.
Mitchell isn’t the only one who’s volunteered. Around Christmas last year, CRTV host Steven Crowder hosted a CRTV subscription telethon in which he was waterboarded by Special Forces operator and former UFC fighter Tim Kennedy.
“It’s not pleasant,” Crowder said after the experience.
You keeping a sense of humor during tells me this isn't torture. No one joked after they used the boot or wracked on someone.— Joshua Johnson (@Agk3los) December 22, 2016
Here's the thing. Waterboarding absolutely sucks. I FELT like I was gonna die. But because I KNEW I wouldn't, I could handle it. Brilliant. https://t.co/jmTI2P4O1I— Steven Crowder (@scrowder) December 22, 2016
“No. I don’t [think it’s torture],” Crowder stated to CR, when asked for comment. “Well I should clarify. I can’t speak to the legal definition and the practice’s history. But I fully support it as an interrogation technique.”
If Sen. Cotton is indeed nominated to lead the CIA, the topic of waterboarding will no doubt surface in his confirmation hearings and once again become the subject of a national debate.
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Chris Pandolfo is a staff writer and type-shouter for Conservative Review. He holds a B.A. in politics and economics from Hillsdale College. His interests are conservative political philosophy, the American founding, and progressive rock. Follow him on Twitter for doom-saying and great album recommendations @ChrisCPandolfo.
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