BLUFFTON, S.C. — Donald Trump said Wednesday that he supports waterboarding and similar interrogation techniques because "torture works" in the questioning of terrorists.
Proponents of waterboarding are careful not to label the technique as torture, which is forbidden by various international laws and treaties. President Obama's administration discontinued the use of waterboarding because it deemed the technique to be torture. During a campaign event at the Sun City retirement community, Trump emphasized his intention to reinstate waterboarding and techniques that are "so much worse" and "much stronger."
"Don't tell me it doesn't work -- torture works," Trump said. "Okay, folks? Torture -- you know, half these guys [say]: 'Torture doesn't work.' Believe me, it works. Okay?"
Trump has long called for the return of waterboarding, and he has seemed to embrace the idea of torture in the past without using the term himself. During a Feb. 7 interview on ABC's "This Week," host George Stephanopoulos asked Trump whether he "would authorize torture." Trump responded: "I would absolutely authorize something beyond waterboarding."
He wrote an op-ed piece on the issue for USA Today on Monday called "I will do whatever it takes."
Trump's campaign manager and spokeswoman have not responded to a request for comment.
Trump's remark on Wednesday was in response to a question from South Carolina state Rep. Bill Herbkersman (R), who asked the candidate a series of questions in a fireside-chat-style event that lasted 33 minutes.
"On that whole thing of politically correct, would you allow U.S. interrogators to waterboard terrorist prisoners in order to extract information?" Herbkersman asked Trump.
"Absolutely," Trump said to strong applause from the audience of about 500 retirees, who often laughed as Trump discussed enhanced interrogation techniques.
Trump hit opponent Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) for being "really weak" on this issue during an earlier debate.
"He didn't want to get involved because he thought waterboarding was bad, so — of course it's bad, but it's not chopping off heads, folks," Trump said. "Okay? That I can tell you."
Trump said that he would "immediately" resume waterboarding and other techniques that are "much worse" because the United States is facing a barbaric enemy.
"They're chopping off our heads in the Middle East," Trump said. "They want to kill us, they want to kill us. They want to kill our country. They want to knock out our cities. And don't tell me it doesn't work — torture works. Okay, folks?"
He called waterboarding a "minor form" of interrogation.
"Some people say it's not actually torture — let's assume it is," Trump said. "But they asked me the question: 'What are you going to do on waterboarding?' Absolutely fine, but we should go much stronger than waterboarding. That's the way I feel."