Romney’s advisers are pushing for a return to torture if he wins the 2012 election
Neither Barack Obama nor Mitt Romney has said much about torture as part of terrorism investigations during the 2012 general campaign. But the future of American government practices when interrogating high-level terrorism suspects appears likely to turn on the outcome of the presidential election.
Mitt Romney said he plans to “use enhanced interrogation techniques which go beyond those that are in the military handbook right now,’ at a news conference in Charleston, S.C., in December.
In one of his first acts, President Obama issued an executive order restricting interrogators to a list of nonabusive tactics approved in the Army Field Manual. Even as he embraced a hawkish approach to other counterterrorism issues — like drone strikes, military commissions, indefinite detention and the Patriot Act — Mr. Obama has stuck to that strict no-torture policy.
By contrast, Mr. Romney’s advisers have privately urged him to ‘rescind and replace President Obama’s executive order’ and permit secret ‘enhanced interrogation techniques against high-value detainees that are safe, legal and effective in generating intelligence to save American lives,’ according to an internal Romney campaign memorandum.
While the memo is a policy proposal drafted by Mr. Romney’s advisers in September 2011 — not a final decision by him — its detailed analysis dovetails with his rare and limited public comments about interrogation.
‘We’ll use enhanced interrogation techniques which go beyond those that are in the military handbook right now,’ he said at a news conference in Charleston, S.C., in December.
The Romney campaign document, obtained by The New York Times, is a five-page policy paper titled ‘Interrogation Techniques.’ It was a near-final draft circulated in September 2011 among the Romney campaign’s ‘National Security Law Subcommittee’ for any further comments before it was to be submitted to Mr. Romney. The panel consists of a brain trust of conservative lawyers, most of whom are veterans of the George W. Bush administration.
The Romney campaign did not respond to a request for comment…
In particular, it criticizes Mr. Obama for restricting interrogators to a ‘one-size-fits-all approach’ designed for routine battlefield captures by ordinary soldiers, not high-level terrorist operatives in the custody of the Central Intelligence Agency. It also notes that the Army Field Manual is available on the Internet, so enemies can study it.
Last December, Mr. Romney was asked about waterboarding at a town-hall meeting in Charleston. He replied that he would ‘do what is essential to protect the lives of the American people’ but would not list ‘for our enemies around the world’ what techniques the United States would use.
Mr. Romney also declared that he would ‘not authorize torture.’ At the news conference afterward, a reporter pressed him to say whether he thought waterboarding was torture, and Mr. Romney replied, ‘I don’t.’
And for those that want to read it, and you should here’s the Romney campaign policy paper
And here’s Hitch getting waterboarded, in case there’s any doubt as to whether waterboarding is torture.