Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) is reportedly the Trump administration's pick to head the Central Intelligence Agency as part of a potential shake-up that would send CIA Director Mike Pompeo to the U.S. Department of State to replace Rex Tillerson.
Cotton, a U.S. Army veteran who currently sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, could be tasked with overseeing the CIA's massive global intelligence gathering operations as part of the ongoing war on terror. He also once expressed a sincere belief that the controversial waterboarding technique is not a form of torture.
“Waterboarding isn't torture,” Cotton argued in a November 2016 appearance on CNN's “The Situation Room.” “We do waterboarding on our own soldiers in the military.”
After anchor Wolf Blitzer interjected to point out that the U.S. no longer uses waterboarding as an interrogation technique, Cotton continued his defense:
"If experienced intelligence officials come to the president of the United States and say we think this terrorist has critical information and we need to obtain it and this is the only way we can obtain it — it's a tough call.
But the presidency is a tough job. And if you're not ready to make those tough calls, you shouldn't seek the office. Donald Trump's a pretty tough guy, and he's ready to make those tough calls."
Cotton's remarks came almost two years after a damning report from the Senate Intelligence Committee found that waterboarding, as an interrogation technique, utterly failed.
The report concluded that detainees either did not provide information or simply fabricated it to avoid further “interrogation.”
“The Committee finds, based on a review of CIA interrogation records, that the use of the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques was not an effective means of obtaining accurate information or gaining detainee cooperation,” the executive summary reads.
Blitzer pressed Cotton on his stance and highlighted the opposition to the technique from Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), a former prisoner of war. But that didn't stop Cotton from defending the discredited torture technique.
“On this one, I disagree,” Cotton answered. “Anything that American troops volunteer for, and radio DJs volunteer for, is not torture. If it has to be done to save American lives, that's a tough call.”
Following the election of President Donald Trump, McCain restated his opposition to the technique.
“I don't give a damn what the president of the United States wants to do or anybody else wants to do,” he said at the Halifax International Security Forum. “We will not waterboard. We will not do it.”
You can watch the full video of Tom Cotton defending the discredited interrogation technique below.