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April 12, 2016

Brennan Rules Out Torture for CIA, Presidential Candidates Urged to Follow Suit

Washington, D.C.—Human Rights First today praised CIA Director John Brennan for comments he made over the weekend asserting that the CIA would refuse to carry out orders to torture individuals, and urges all presidential candidates to unequivocally oppose the practice.

 “The premise—no matter how emphatically offered—that torture is either useful or necessary is completely without merit when all evidence points to the fact that it is ineffective at gaining actionable intelligence, and actually makes our country less safe,” said retired Air Force Colonel Steve Kleinman, a human intelligence expert with more than 30 years of experience in interrogation. “Torture is illegal, immoral, counterproductive, and should never be used again by the United States.”

In an interview this weekend, Director Brennan told NBC News he would not allow members of his agency to employ enhanced interrogation techniques under his watch. The comments came amidst increased discussion of waterboarding during this year's presidential campaign.

“It is ridiculous to go against countless national security leaders, interrogators, and intelligence professionals, who have said time and again that torture is a detriment in our efforts to effectively root out terrorism,” said Human Rights First’s Raha Wala.

Last year, Senators McCain (R-AZ) and Feinstein (D-CA) sponsored landmark anti-torture legislation that reinforces the United States’ ban on the use of torture, including waterboarding and other so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques.” The legislation—which passed in a 78-21 vote in the Senate and was signed into law as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for the 2016 Fiscal Year—is an historic victory in the fight to reestablish a durable, bipartisan consensus against torture.

The amendment passed the Senate with the support of a broad bipartisan majority, which included the chairs and ranking members of the intelligence, armed services, homeland security, foreign relations, and judiciary committees.

Last year, twenty-six of the nation's most respected interrogation and intelligence professionals sent a letter to all candidates for president urging them to publicly reject the use of torture as it is illegal, counterproductive, and detrimental to national security. The letter was signed by interrogators who include intelligence gathering professionals from the armed services, CIA, FBI, NCIS, DEA, Army CID, and federal law enforcement, some of whom have interrogated core al Qaeda members.

For more information or to speak with Kleinman or Wala, contact Corinne Duffy at DuffyC@humanrightsfirst.org or 202-370-3319.