Republican presidential candidate and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina took a hard line on counterterrorism programs, defending waterboarding techniques used during the George W. Bush administration. Fiorina said in an interview with Yahoo News published Monday that the techniques were supervised by medical personnel and were only used as a last resort to get information.
Waterboarding has been the subject of a heated national debate, and a Senate report released last year described the events as "near drownings" that were basically torture and were ineffective in producing actionable intelligence for U.S. military and intelligence services. President Barack Obama signed an executive order shortly after entering office to end the torture program, and the U.S. Senate voted this June to make that order law.
"I believe that all of the evidence is very clear that waterboarding was used in a very small handful of cases [and] was supervised by medical personnel in every one of those cases,” Fiorina said. “And I also believe that waterboarding was used when there was no other way to get information that was necessary.”
That hawkish position is one that is working for Fiorina on the 2016 campaign trail. After a strong showing in the second Republican debate, which focused on foreign policy, she has been gaining in the polls on front-runner Donald Trump. During that debate, she expressed a distrust for Russian President Vladimir Putin. She then said she would boost military preparedness toward Russia and Putin.
"I have sat across a table from Vladimir Putin, just he and I, and I can tell you having met this man, it is pretty clear to me that a gimmicky red reset button will not thwart his ambition," she later said during a stump speech.
Her comments on waterboarding and torture techniques were not met kindly by human rights activists. "It’s outrageous for anybody to claim that torture was limited or that this is the way the U.S. should have conducted business after 9/11," said Naureen Shah, director of the security and human rights program at Amnesty International USA. Amnesty International filed a Justice Department complaint last week that claimed criminal investigations were not ongoing over waterboarding and other torture practices.
Still, the aggressive foreign policy stance seemed to be doing Fiorina some good. Fiorina wasn't even a top-10 candidate before the first Republican debates but gained notoriety for a sharp attack on Trump and his relationship with the Clinton family. Following the second debate, she shot up even higher and was in third place, according to a Real Clear Politics Average of national Republican voters, at 11.6 percent of the vote. She trailed retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson (17 percent) and Trump (23.4 percent).