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McCain To Trump: 'We Are Not Bringing Back Torture'

| by Robert Fowler

Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona has pledged that the U.S. will not exercise torture techniques ever again following President Donald Trump's drafting of an executive order that would strip detainee treatment standards put in place during the Obama administration.

On Jan. 25, McCain issued a statement in response to Trump's reported plans to do away with many of the restrictions on how U.S. personnel may treat detainees.

"The president can sign whatever executive orders he likes," McCain said, according to Politico. "But the law is the law. We are not bringing back torture in the United States of America."

On the campaign trail, Trump had pledged to resurrect interrogation techniques exercised by former President George W. Bush's administration and subsequently banned by former President Barack Obama. In February 2016, Trump stated that he would bring back waterboarding and take interrogation techniques even further, according to The Hill.

"I would bring back waterboarding," Trump said during a GOP primary debate. "And I would bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding."

In November 2016, Trump appeared to change his stance during an interview with The New York Times. He stated that his future Secretary of Defense, former Gen. James Mattis, had convinced him that torture techniques were not effective in extracting information from terrorist suspects.

"He said -- I was surprised -- he said, 'I've never found it to be useful,'" Trump said. "He said, 'I've always found, give me a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers and I do better with that than I do with torture.'"

On Jan. 25, it was revealed that the Trump administration had drafted an executive order titled Detention and Interrogation of Enemy Combatants, which would reinstate the CIA's off-grid prisons overseas and remove much of the language about detainee protections from the Army Field Manual.

The executive order would also cut off the International Red Cross staffers' access to terrorism suspects. In 2016, McCain  co-authored a budget amendment that codified the standards of the Army Field Manual and Red Cross access as U.S. law.

If Trump signs the executive order, its legality would be unclear, clashing with a law that was passed by Congress.

"With respect to torture, that's banned," said Republican Sen. John Thune of South Dakota. "The Army Field Manual makes that very clear, and the law now is tied to the Army Field Manual."

The executive order would also contradict the testimony provided by both attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions and confirmed CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who had pledged during their confirmation hearings before Congress that the Trump administration would not reinstate torture techniques.

"It would be surprising and extremely troubling if the national security cabinet officials were to acquiesce in an order like that after the assurances that they gave in their confirmation hearings," said Elisa Massimino, director of Human Rights First.

In November 2016, McCain pledged during a national security forum that he would combat any attempt made by Trump to resurrect torture techniques.

"If they started waterboarding, I swear to you there's a whole bunch of us that would have them in court in a New York minute," McCain said, according to NPR.

"So I don't give a damn what the president of the United States wants to do or anybody else wants to do, we will not waterboard, we will not torture," McCain added. "We will not torture people."

Sources: The HillThe New York Times (2), NPRPolitico / Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

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