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Cruz: 'America Does Not Need Torture to Protect Ourselves'

Gage Skidmore

In an interview this week with the Associated Press on his foreign policy and national security views, Senator Ted Cruz took a hard line against what he described as "torture" of terrorism suspects. As AP reporter Steven Peoples puts it, the Republican from Texas "rejects the idea that torture can serve as an appropriate interrogation tool."

"We can defend our nation and be strong and uphold our values," he quotes Cruz in the article published Wednesday. "There is a reason the bad guys engage in torture. ISIS engages in torture. Iran engages in torture. America does not need to torture to protect ourselves."

It's not clear from the AP article whether Cruz was specifically asked about the CIA's past use of enhanced interrogation techniques. A spokesperson for the Cruz campaign said she was not sure about the context of the question and that the campaign had requested the AP post the entire interview online.

Taken as is, Cruz's pronouncement against "torture" sounds very similar to Barack Obama's arguments against EITs, like waterboarding, that were used in to gather intelligence during the administration of George W. Bush. Obama has long characterized the techniques as torture, although the Bush administration argued they were not.

Like Cruz, President Obama has cast the issue both in terms of American values and its efficacy in fighting terrorism. "[T]hese harsh methods were not only inconsistent with our values as nation, they did not serve our broader counterterrorism efforts or our national security interests," Obama said in a statement last December after the release of a report from the Senate Intelligence committee's Democrats on the CIA's use of enhanced interrogation techniques.

"I can stand here today, as President of the United States, and say without exception or equivocation that we do not torture, and that we will vigorously protect our people while forging a strong and durable framework that allows us to fight terrorism while abiding by the rule of law," Obama said in May 2009, shortly after banning the use of EITs.

Supporters of the techniques have said the limited use of waterboarding and EITs were effective in providing critical intelligence for fighting against terrorist groups. One of the three people waterboarded under the CIA's program, for instance, was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.

The Cruz campaign has not yet responded to further request for comment on whether these techniques constitute the "torture" that Cruz opposes.