Pentagon: Mattis still opposes torture despite Trump comment

Pentagon: Mattis still opposes torture despite Trump comment
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Defense Secretary James Mattis is not wavering on his opposition to torture, the Pentagon said Thursday, despite President Trump endorsing its usage the day before.  

"Secretary Mattis said in his confirmation process that he will abide by and is committed to upholding international law, the Law of Armed Conflict, Geneva Conventions and U.S. law, and that has not changed," Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters Thursday. 

President Trump in an interview Wednesday evening on ABC News seemed to give conflicting statements on whether he would bring back the use of torture. 

He said he believes it works but that he would listen to Mattis and CIA Director Mike Pompeo — who also opposes torture. 

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"As far as I'm concerned, we have to fight fire with fire. Now, with that being said I'm going with General Mattis. I'm going with my secretary because I think Pompeo's gonna be phenomenal. I'm gonna go with what they say," Trump said.

"But I have spoken as recently as 24 hours ago with people at the highest level of intelligence. And I asked them the question, 'Does it work? Does torture work?' And the answer was, 'Yes, absolutely,' " he added.

"I will rely on General Mattis. And I'm gonna rely on those two people and others. And if they don't wanna do it, it's 100 percent okay with me. Do I think it works? Absolutely."

The Pentagon reiterated repeatedly that Mattis's opposition to torture has not changed from statements made during his confirmation hearing. 

"His views and his commitment to upholding those laws have not changed," Davis said.  

According to a purported leaked draft executive order published by various news outlets, Trump is poised to revive the use of CIA black sites in foreign countries to interrogate suspected terrorists. 

The draft order has revived the debate over enhanced interrogation techniques used at the sites, such as waterboarding. Critics have argued those tactics amounted to torture.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Wednesday said the reported order is "not a White House document." 

Trump during the campaign pledged to “bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding,” arguing that militants plotting attacks on civilians “deserve it anyway.”

GOP leaders at a Republican congressional retreat on Thursday indicated they believe torture should remain illegal 

The Detainee Treatment Act, passed by Congress in the wake of Abu Ghraib scandal, bars any individual in the custody of the U.S. government from being subjected to cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment.

It also states that no person in custody of the Department of Defense should be subject to any interrogation technique not authorized by the Army Field Manual, which prohibits torture.

Alex Bolton contributed to this report.