CIA director would resign if new president resumed waterboarding

CIA Director John Brennan © Carlos Barria
CIA director John Brennan says the next president would have to find “another director” if waterboarding is revived. The statement was presumably a response to Donald Trump, who supports the torture practice.

“I can say that as long as I'm director of CIA, irrespective of what the president says, I'm not going to be the director of CIA that gives that order. They'll have to find another director,” Brennan said, not mentioning Trump’s name.

Waterboarding - a torture technique akin to drowning – was one of the “enhanced interrogation” techniques used during the George W. Bush administration against suspected militants detained in secret US prisons.

For example, Abu Zubaydah, a Saudi-born Palestinian suspected of being an al-Qaeda member, was subjected to 83 waterboarding sessions. He was also placed in a coffin-sized box for a total of 266 hours (11 days, two hours) over a 20-day period, and was forced to sit in another small confinement box, 21 inches wide by 2.5 feet long, for 29 hours.

“I know that there has been calls for waterboarding or worse or whatever else,” Brennan said. “As long as I’m the director of CIA, we are not going to go down that road again.”

READ MORE: ‘Mental torture’: Gitmo inmate testifies against guards at US prison camp

The use of waterboarding was banned by President Barack Obama in 2009 via executive order, but this year’s presumptive Republican presidential nominee has repeatedly voiced support for the practice.

“They asked me: 'What do you think about waterboarding, Mr. Trump?’ I said I love it. I love it, I think it’s great. And I said the only thing is, we should make it much tougher than waterboarding,” Trump said at an April 20 rally in Indianapolis.

In late June, he reiterated his support for the return of waterboarding against Islamic State militants, saying that he likes the practice “a lot.”

“You have to fight fire with fire,” Trump added.

In April, Brennan said that the CIA would not engage in waterboarding, even if a future president were to order it. At the time, he stressed that he “will not agree to carry out some of these tactics and techniques” as well as “not agree to having any CIA officer carrying out waterboarding again.”

However, speaking on Wednesday, Brennan defended the use of the Bush-era interrogation techniques, saying that that it was “instrumental in keeping this country safe in the aftermath of 9/11.”

“There were individuals that were subjected to these [enhanced interrogation techniques] that subsequent to that provided information that was in fact credible and worthwhile for pursuit,” he said. 

Yet, it will be for the next president to decide whether or not to keep Obama’s executive order in place, as well as to either appoint a new CIA director or not.