Candidates' positions are categorized as Pro (Yes), Con (No), Not Clearly Pro or Con, or None Found. Candidates who have changed their positions are listed as Now their most recent position. Candidates are listed by party and in alphabetical order by last name. Black & white photos indicate candidates who have withdrawn or who no longer meet our criteria for inclusion.
Should interrogation techniques that some consider torture, such as waterboarding, be a legal option?
Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States, released an Oct. 4, 2007 statement on his 2008 election campaign website in response to a report about the George W. Bush adminstration's use of interrogation techniques:
"The secret authorization of brutal interrogations is an outrageous betrayal of our core values, and a grave danger to our security. We must do whatever it takes to track down and capture or kill terrorists, but torture is not a part of the answer - it is a fundamental part of the problem with this administration's [George W. Bush] approach. Torture is how you create enemies, not how you defeat them. Torture is how you get bad information, not good intelligence. Torture is how you set back America's standing in the world, not how you strengthen it. It's time to tell the world that America rejects torture without exception or equivocation. It's time to stop telling the American people one thing in public while doing something else in the shadows. No more secret authorization of methods like simulated drowning. When I am president America will once again be the country that stands up to these deplorable tactics. When I am president we won't work in secret to avoid honoring our laws and Constitution, we will be straight with the American people and true to our values." Oct. 4, 2007 Barack Obama
Mitt Romney, former Governor of Massachusetts, stated the following in a July 20, 2007 Associated Press article titled "Mitt Romney Supports 'Tough Interrogation Techniques," posted on the Fox news website:
"I support tough interrogation techniques, enhanced interrogation techniques, in circumstances where there is a ticking time bomb, a ticking bomb... I do not support torture, but I do support enhanced interrogation techniques to learn from terrorists what we need to learn to keep the bombs from going off." July 20, 2007 Mitt Romney
Jill Stein, MD, former Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, provides the following statement on her campaign website page "Where We Stand on the Issues," available at www.jillstein.org(accessed Sep. 13, 2012):
"Demilitarize U.S. foreign policy to emphasize human rights, international law, multinational diplomatic initiatives and support for democratic movements across the world... Make human rights and international law the basis of our policy in the Middle East." Sep. 13, 2012 Jill Stein
Michele Bachmann, US Representative (R-MN), stated the following during the Nov. 12, 2011 Republican debate held in Spartanburg, SC:
"If I were president, I would be willing to use waterboarding. I think it was very effective. It gained information for our country, and I - and I also would like to say that today, under Barack Obama, he is allowing the ACLU to run the CIA. You need to understand that today, today we - it - when we - when we interdict a terrorist on the battlefield, we have no jail for them. We have nowhere to take them. We have no CIA interrogation anymore. It is as though we have decided we want to lose in the war on terror under President Obama. That’s not my strategy. My strategy will be that the United States will be victorious in the war on terror." Nov. 12, 2011 Michele Bachmann
Herman Cain, Former Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City and Chairman of Godfathers Pizza, stated the following druing the Nov. 12, 2011 Republican debate held in Spartanburg, SC:
"GARRETT: Mr. Cain, of course you’re familiar with the long - running debate we’ve had about whether waterboarding constitutes torture or is an enhanced interrogation technique. In the last campaign, Republican nominee John McCain and Barack Obama agreed that it was torture, and should not be allowed legally, and that the Army Field Manual should be the methodology used to interrogate enemy combatants. Do you agree with that or do you disagree, sir?
CAIN: I agree that it was an enhanced interrogation technique.
GARRETT: And then you would support it as president?
GARRETT: You would return...
GARRETT: ... to that policy?
CAIN: I would return to that policy. I don’t see it as torture. I see it as an enhanced interrogation technique." Nov. 12, 2011 Herman Cain
Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the US House of Representatives (R-GA), stated the following in an Apr. 26, 2009 article, "The Politics of Torture," On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, on the Fox News website:
"Van Susteren: All right, now, waterboarding -- is that torture?
Gingrich: I think it's something we shouldn't do.
Van Susteren: Should not do.
Gingrich: Should not do....[George] Washington issued very strict rules, to be charitable towards prisoners, to be careful about treating them humanely, to draw a distinction between the way the Europeans mercenaries dealt with our men and the way Americans deal with other prisoners. And I think Washington was closer to right. So I'm not going to defend any of these practices, but I do think the way the administration has approached it weakens the United States and I think that they have gratuitously done things that were not needed.
Van Susteren: OK. Is [waterboarding] torture or not?
Gingrich: I - I - I think it's - I can't tell you.
Van Susteren: Does it violate the Geneva Convention?
Gingrich: I honestly don't know.
Van Susteren: I'm just trying to understand where you stand on it.
Gingrich: I think - I think that there - I am exactly where Senator McCain was. Senator McCain said there are very rare circumstances where extreme measures should be used, and those circumstances should be personally signed by the president as commander-in-chief. And a good example is if you pick up somebody who has planted a nuclear weapon in Washington or New York or Los Angeles or Atlanta and you're trying to find out in the next three hours where is the nuclear weapon, the president of the United States may well authorize remarkably tough measures because a hundred thousand or a half million lives are at stake.
Van Susteren: Is it inside the law? I mean, is it inside the law?
Gingrich: I think - I think it's debatable. Lawyers I respect a great deal say it is absolutely within the law. Other lawyers say it absolutely is not. I mean, this is a debatable area." Apr. 26, 2009 Newt Gingrich
Jon Huntsman, former Governor of Utah, stated the following during the Nov. 12, 2011 Republican debate held in Spartanburg, SC:
"We diminish our standing in the world and the values that we project, which include liberty, democracy, human rights and open markets, when we torture. We should not torture. Waterboarding is torture. We dilute ourselves down like a whole lot of other countries, and we lose that ability to project values that a lot of people in corners of this world are still relying on the United States to stand up for." Nov. 12, 2011 Jon Huntsman
Ron Paul, US Representative (R-TX), stated the following in an article he wrote titled "Torturing the Rule of Law," posted on www.lewrockwell.com on May 26, 2009:
"‘Enhanced interrogation' as some prefer to call it, has been used throughout history, usually by despotic governments, to cruelly punish or to extract politically useful statements from prisoners. Governments that do these things invariably bring shame on themselves.
In addition, information obtained under duress is incredibly unreliable, which is why it is not admissible in a court of law. Legally valid information is freely given by someone of sound mind and body. Someone in excruciating pain, or brought close to death by some horrific procedure is not in any state of mind to give reliable information, and certainly no actions should be taken solely based upon it.
For these reasons, it is illegal in the United States and illegal under Geneva Conventions. Simulated drowning, or water boarding, was not considered an exception to these laws when it was used by the Japanese against US soldiers in World War II. In fact, we hanged Japanese officers for war crimes in 1945 for water boarding. Its status as torture has already been decided by our own courts under this precedent. To look the other way now, when Americans do it, is the very definition of hypocrisy...
The government's own actions and operations in torturing people, and in acting on illegally obtained and unreliable information to kill and capture, are the most radicalizing forces at work today, not any religion, nor the fact that we are rich and free. The fact that our government engages in evil behavior under the auspices of the American people is what poses the greatest threat to the American people, and it must not be allowed to stand." May 26, 2009 Ron Paul
Rick Perry, Governor of Texas, stated the following during the Nov. 12, 2011 Republican presidential debate held in Spartanburg, SC:
"Yeah. Let me just address Congressman Paul. And I - Congressman, I - I respect that you wore the uniform of our country. But - in 1972, I volunteered to serve the United States Air Force. And the idea that we have our young men and women in combat today, Senator, where there are people who would kill them in a heartbeat, under any circumstance, use any technique that they can, for us not to have the ability to try to extract information from them, to save our young people's lives, is a travesty. This is war. That's what happens in war. And I am for using the techniques, not torture, but using those techniques that we know will extract the information to save young American lives. And I will be for it until I die." Nov. 12, 2011 Rick Perry
ProCon.org emailed the Roemer campaign for his position to this question on Oct. 26, 2011. We made a follow up call on Jan. 31, 2012, and we sent a follow up email on Feb. 8, 2012. Although Roemer's campaign manager and policy advisor did reply to our emails, we have not yet received Roemer's position on this issue as of Feb. 14, 2012.
Rick Santorum, former US Senator (R-PA), stated the following during the Fox News Republican presidential debate held in Greenville, NC on May 5, 2011, in an exchange with moderator Chris Wallace and candidate Ron Paul:
"WALLACE: Well let me ask you all directly, this is going to be another raising of your hands and you didn’t have answer this specifically Congressman Paul, raise your hand if you would support a resumption of water boarding under any circumstances.
SANTORUM: Under certain circumstances or any circumstances?
WALLACE: Under certain circumstances.
SANTORUM: Certain or any?
WALLACE: Under any circumstances that you could imagine, not all.
WALLACE: So just to declare the three of you under individual case by case basis would support water boarding, Congressman Paul you would not?
PAUL: No, I would not. Because you don’t achieve anything.
SANTORUM: Well it’s just simply not true Ron, I mean the fact is that what we found is that some of this information that we find out that led to Osama Bin Laden actually came from these enhanced interrogation techniques.
PAUL: Not true.
SANTORUM: And by the way we wouldn’t have been able to launch a raid into Pakistan to get Osama Bin Laden if we weren’t in Afghanistan." May 5, 2011 Rick Santorum
History of waterboarding prosecutions - Read our short history of waterboarding prosecutions in United States civilian and military courts, as well as international courts participated in by the United States. (220 KB)