Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director John Brennan has announced that he will not bring back waterboarding amidst a growing spectacle of Republican candidates announcing their support for ‘enhanced interrogation techniques.’ Brennan’s public opinion regarding the CIA’s use of torture has fluctuated, to say the least. He has been an active proponent of torture techniques in the past, defending the CIA when accusatory reports of controversial practices became public knowledge in 2013.
Since then he’s claimed a total change of heart; after reading a 6,000 page report detailing the ineffectiveness of torture, Brennan stated that he felt misled by the agency. This made it all the more surprising when he played apologist to the CIA’s use of torture techniques in interrogation, only to revert to his more modern stance that torture should not be utilized by the agency. If this most recent opinion truly is a genuine statement made in good faith, his anti-torture sentiment should bring some peace of mind to those watching the campaign trail.
While both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have renounced the use of torture, their Republican opposition has an almost unanimously positive view of it as a way to acquire information from imprisoned terrorists. I say almost unanimously because of the rather cryptic opinion of Ted Cruz, who has developed such a narrow definition of torture that he can claim to be an outspoken critic while supporting waterboarding. When asked for his opinion on waterboarding, Donald Trump voiced his support, even going so far as to say, “And I would approve more than that. Don’t kid yourself, folks. It works, okay? It works.” Trump has used an aggressive stance on issues of national security to gain popularity, seeing his own ratings improve after denouncing migrant Muslim populations for the Brussels attack.
Despite Trump’s promises and ‘facts,’ past uses of torture by the CIA have been poked and prodded by committees to find out how necessary they actually were to furthering the mission. In 2014, the Senate Intelligence Committee released a 525 page portion of a larger investigation into ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ during the war on terror. They concluded that most of the information extracted through torture had already been known, either through prior investigations or the prisoner having already given up the information in the past. The committee’s findings were welcomed by President Obama and other politicians, Republican and Democrat. The president remarked that America is made great through its ability to recognize the faults of its past and move forward.
What makes “Make America Great Again” sound so putrid coming out of Trump’s mouth is that he doesn’t recognize which way America should be headed for greatness. Arguably the world’s most powerful state, America has a responsibility to live up to its principles. The nation should push human rights in front of power and lead by example. In an age of controversial drone strikes and the like, President Obama can constantly be heard and seen questioning the nation’s responsibilities and role in the world. The last thing we need is for the next president to be a no-holds-barred commander who is ready to destroy the enemy ‘by any means necessary’. America’s 21st century should be defined by recognition of mistakes and finding the best path forward.
Director Brennan’s statement comes at a time when an angry populace and some radical candidates threatened to push the States’ image backwards in the eyes of the world. It displays the resilience and evolution of America’s institutions against its more ‘traditional’ citizens.