Republican President Donald Trump told ABC News on Wednesday that intelligence officials have assured him torture is "absolutely" an effective way of extracting information from captives.
The president said he had met "recently" with top-level members of the intelligence community, and, "I asked them the question, 'Does it work? Does torture work?' And the answer was, 'Yes, absolutely.'"
Trump then specifically cited waterboarding, a brutal form of water torture, as a tactic the U.S. should use in interrogations and did not back away from a campaign pledge to "do a hell of a lot worse" to terror suspects when prompted.
Trump notably used the word "torture" openly, dodging euphemisms from the era of former President George W. Bush like "enhanced interrogation."
Torture does not, in fact, "absolutely" work. An exhaustive 2014 Senate report on CIA detention programs launched during Bush's term found no evidence torture was a reliable or effective intelligence tool. In addition to being a moral atrocity, torture is ineffective because its victims will say anything to make the torture stop. Torturers also often torture victims for information they don't have, resulting in additional cruelty in pursuit of bad leads.
Also on Wednesday, the New York Times reported the administration has prepared a draft order to investigate re-opening so-called CIA "black sites" where detainees are held in secret and tortured in violation of international law. The order also directs the notorious U.S. military prison Guantanamo Bay to continue operating, reversing former President Barack Obama's efforts to shut the facility down.
The pro-torture moves put an end to any prevarications from months ago when Trump said he was "impressed" by Secretary of Defense Gen. James Mattis' answer that he had "always found, give me a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers and I do better with that than I do with torture."
Trump has condoned other forms of violence besides torture; on the campaign trail, he advocated for killing terrorists' families — a war crime, in the eyes of at least one expert.