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Editorial: Hold candidates accountable on torture

Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney

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Updated: November 2, 2012 6:09AM

At Wednesday’s presidential debate, we hope moderator Jim Lehrer will ask a question on a topic we haven’t heard much about lately: torture.

We pretty much know where President Barack Obama stands on the matter. One of his first acts in office was to issue an order restricting interrogation techniques to exclude such abuses as waterboarding and slamming suspects into walls.

But we don’t know where Mitt Romney stands — we can only worry.

In a secret campaign memo obtained by the New York Times, Romney’s advisers urge him to “rescind” Obama’s executive order and permit “enhanced interrogation techniques against high-value detainees that are safe, legal and effective in generating intelligence to save American lives.”

We’ve been down this road before, people, and it’s a bad one.

America’s intelligence interests, even when interrogating the worst possible terrorists, are not served by the use of torture. It is illegal, erodes our nation’s moral standing and puts our own soldiers, should they be captured, in greater danger. As Sen. John McCain has often said, if we beat, suffocate and otherwise abuse prisoners of war, then we can’t much complain when the other side does the same.

Back in December, Romney said he favors the use of interrogation techniques that “go beyond” tactics approved in the Army Field Manual, but he wouldn’t say what those techniques might be. He did say, when asked, that he does not think waterboarding is torture.

Obama, on the other hand, had this to say on the subject back in November:

“Waterboarding is torture. It’s contrary to America’s traditions. It’s contrary to our ideals. That’s not who we are. That’s not how we operate. We don’t need it in order to prosecute the war on terrorism.”

Gov. Romney’s few words on torture came during the GOP primary race, when he was slinging red meat to the far right. Let’s hear what he has to say now.

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