Vice President-elect Mike Pence has not ruled out the use of waterboarding as an interrogation technique during the forthcoming Trump administration. Pence was responding to Senator John McCain's comments that any attempt to bring back the torture practice would be challenged in court.
Face the Nation host John Dickerson questioned Pence about McCain's remarks at the Halifax International Security Forum and noted that Representative Mike Pompeo, Trump's choice for CIA director, supports the president-elect's position that waterboarding should perhaps be brought back.
"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 said on Saturday (19 November), according to The Washington Post. "My God, what does it say about America if we're going to inflict torture on people?"
The Arizona Republican noted that waterboarding, which simulates drowning and is illegal in the US, is not authorised by the US Army Field Manual and goes against the Geneva Conventions.
"If they started waterboarding, I swear to you, there are a bunch of us who would have [Trump] in court in a New York minute," McCain said with a snap of his fingers, according to The Huffington Post.
Pence appeared unaffected by the clip of McCain's comments. "Well, I have great respect for Senator McCain," he said. "What I can tell you is that going forward, as he outlined in that famous speech in Ohio, is that a President Donald Trump is going to focus on confronting and defeating radical Islamic terrorism as a threat to this country."
He added: "We're going to have a president again who will never say what we'll never do."
US Congress made waterboarding against terrorism suspects illegal following its use during the administration of George W Bush. Two days after first taking office, on 22 January 2009, President Obama signed three executive orders reversing Bush administration policies on the detention and interrogation of terrorism suspects, reported The Washington Post.
During a November 2015 rally in Columbus, Ohio, Trump promised to reinstate waterboarding and other methods of torture. "Would I approve waterboarding? You bet your a** I would—in a heartbeat," he said to cheers.
"And I would approve more than that. Don't kid yourself, folks. It works, okay? It works. Only a stupid person would say it doesn't work."
McCain, a Vietnam War veteran who was tortured as a prisoner of war, has long advocated against the use of torture during interrogation. According to The Huffington Post, the senator has said torture is largely ineffective and is more likely to illicit bad intelligence.
The Arizona senator has cited the case of 9/11 planner Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who gave false information to his interrogators after being waterboarded, and his own experience as a prisoner of war.
"I know from personal experience that the abuse of prisoners sometimes produces good intelligence but often produces bad intelligence because under torture a person will say anything he thinks his captors want to hear—true or false—if he believes it will relieve his suffering," he wrote in a 2011 guest column for the Washington Post.
"Often, information provided to stop the torture is deliberately misleading."
Fellow Republican Senator Rand Paul said in his own Face the Nation interview that he agreed with McCain. "We should telegraph to the world that we're better than this," Paul said.