WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is asking for a review of America's methods for interrogating terror suspects and the possible reopening of CIA-run "black site" prisons outside the United States, according to a draft executive order obtained by The Associated Press.
The order would also reverse America's commitment to closing the U.S. detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The document instructs top national security officers to "recommend to the president whether to reinitiate a program of interrogation of high-value alien terrorists to be operated outside the United States and whether such program should include the use of detention facilities operated by the Central Intelligence Agency."
The document says U.S. laws should be obeyed at all times and explicitly rejects "torture." But its reconsideration of the harsh interrogation techniques banned by President Barack Obama and Congress is sure to inflame passions in the United States and abroad. While some former government leaders insist the program was effective in obtaining critical intelligence, many others blame it for some of the worst abuses in the "war on terror" after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States.
The AP obtained the draft order from a U.S. official, who said it had been distributed by the White House for consultations before Trump signs it. The official wasn't authorized to speak publicly on the matter and demanded anonymity.
On the campaign trail, Trump spoke emphatically about toughening the U.S. approach to fighting the Islamic State group. He spoke he would interrogate terror suspects with the outlawed practice of waterboarding, which simulates drowning, and a "hell of a lot worse." Since becoming president, however, he has tempered those calls, noting his Defense Secretary James Mattis' advice that torture is ineffective.
The reports of an upcoming order were already sparking significant alarm among Democrats and Republicans.
"The president can sign whatever executive orders he likes. But the law is the law," said Republican Sen. John McCain, who was held captive during the Vietnam War. "We are not bringing back torture in the United States of America."