Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump on Sunday promised to revive the so-called enhanced interrogation technique of waterboarding to glean intelligence from suspected terrorists.
“I would bring it back, yes. I would bring it back,” Trump said on ABC’s This Week.
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He said he would bring back the practice, ended by President Obama and considered by many to be a form or torture, because of the barbaric way ISIS has treated its American hostages.
“I think waterboarding is peanuts compared to what they'd do to us, what they're doing to us, what they did to James Foley when they chopped off his head,” Trump said, referring to the American journalist who was executed last year in a gruesome Internet video.
“That's a whole different level and I would absolutely bring back interrogation and strong interrogation,” Trump added.
The real estate mogul has steered the conversation on many hot button issues in the GOP presidential primary, most notably immigration. His latest remarks are another indication the race has entered a new, national-security focused phase in the wake of the recent ISIS attacks in Paris that killed at least 130 people.
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Several Republicans have reoriented their entire campaigns to address the issue: both Ohio Governor John Kasich and former Florida governor Jeb Bush last week rolled out their strategy for defeating the terror group. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who has seen his poll numbers rise in recent weeks, unveiled his first national television ad arguing, “What happened in Paris could happen here.”
Trump, who last week set the other GOP contenders on their heels when he said he wanted to shut down mosques and create of registry of Muslims living in the U.S., seems poised to lead the pack again ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.
Immediately after Trump’s appearance, George Stephanopoulos asked retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson whether waterboarding should be brought back.
“I agree that there's no such thing as political correctness when you're fighting an enemy who wants to destroy you and everything that you have anything to do with. And I'm not one who is real big on telling the enemy what we're going to do and what we're not going to do,” according to Carson, who is drawing close to even with Trump in some polls.
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Pressed again, Carson repeated he’s “not real big on telling them what we would or would not do. I just don't think that's a -- I don't see where that accomplishes anything for us.”
Trump clarified his earlier comments, saying he only wants to surveil “some mosques” and wants to create a database for Syrian refugees entering the country.
He also double-downed on comments he made at a Saturday night campaign event that “thousands” of Arabs in Jersey City, New Jersey, cheered as the World Trade Center buildings fell on Sept. 11, 2001 – a claim that has been disputed by local police and city officials.
Trump also kept the door open to launching a third-party bid for the White House if he’s not treated “fairly.”
“If I’m treated fairly, I’m fine,” he said.