New article in Deutsche Welle featuring Carr CenterSenior Fellow Alberto Mora.
Donald Trump has threatened to make good on his campaign pledge to bring back waterboarding and forms of torture "a hell of a lot worse." That would violate international and US law, of course, but could he do it anyway?
There was a sense that the US was coming to grips with its sins in December 2014, when the Senate completed its report on CIA torture under President George W. Bush in the years following the attacks of September 11, 2001. Months later, on June 16, 2015, when more than 20 Senate Republicans joined their Democratic colleagues in a 78-21 vote to ban torture once and for all, there was a sense that the country was even moving forward. There would be no more "rectal feeding" of prisoners in the CIA's secret interrogation centers, no more threats to kill inmates' children or parents, no more people killed by hypothermia after spending hours forced into stress positions on frigid concrete. But 230 miles (385 kilometers) from the US Capitol on that very same June afternoon in 2015, a reality television host was kicking off a scorched-earth campaign at the New York City tower he had named for himself. And in 2017 the United States finds itself debating the limits of official cruelty all over again - though not necessarily the long-settled legality.
"Torture under international law is categorically prohibited under all circumstances," said Alberto Mora, the Navy's general counsel during the Bush administration and a leading Defense Department opponent of the practices euphemistically referred to as "enhanced interrogation." "This is what's called a nonderogable law, meaning that there is no set of circumstances or extenuating circumstance which would justify the application of torture."