May 13, 2020 / 8:13 PM / 3 months ago

U.S. senators ask Trump spy chief nominee to clarify testimony on torture

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX), President Donald Trump's nominee to be Director of National Intelligence, is escorted by U.S. Capitol police officers and other security officials wearing face masks because of the COVID-19 disease outbreak as he arrives to testify at his U.S. Senate confirmation hearing in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee in Washington, U.S. May 5, 2020. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two members of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee wrote to President Donald Trump’s nominee for the top U.S. intelligence job on Wednesday seeking clarification of his views on the use of torture by U.S. spy agencies.

In a letter to Representative John Ratcliffe, Trump’s nominee to be Director of National Intelligence (DNI), Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, and Senator Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, said they were not satisfied with his answers to questions about torture at an intelligence committee nomination hearing on May 5.

“In both your written and your oral responses to Committee questions about torture, you have been evasive and non-committal,” the letter said.

When asked if he believed so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” used by the Central Intelligence Agency on suspected al Qaeda militants were consistent with U.S. and international laws prohibiting torture, Ratcliffe responded that he had “not conducted the legal and factual research and analysis that would be required to properly answer this question.”

And when King asked Ratcliffe if he believed waterboarding violated anti-torture law, Ratcliff said only that the law said “torture is illegal,” an answer the senators criticized as not being direct.

    The letter asserted that King’s question deserved a more clear answer, since Trump has vowed to “bring back waterboarding [and] bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.”

The senators asked Ratcliffe for “direct, unequivocal answers” to several questions, including whether there are any circumstances under which he believes current law could be interpreted to justify interrogation practices other than those identified in a U.S. Army Field manual.

    Ratcliffe’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the letter.

Reporting by Mark Hosenball; Editing by Patricia Zengerle and Andrea Ricci

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