Many of Mitt Romney’s leading economic advisors are former members of the Bush/Cheney team, but the same is true of the candidate’s foreign policy team. Ari Berman has a terrific piece today, for example, highlighting figures like John Bolton, Robert Joseph, Dan Senor, and Eric Edelman, all of whom were “tarnished by the Iraq fiasco,” but are now advising the would-be Republican president.
Of particular interest, though, is Cofer Black.
Romney hasn’t said what he’d do with a bigger military or how he’d pay for it. But it’s safe to assume the money will go toward preserving or enlarging the national security state. Romney’s counterterrorism adviser since 2007 has been former CIA operative Cofer Black, another controversial figure from the Bush era. The Daily Beast calls Black “Romney’s trusted envoy to the dark side” and “the campaign’s in-house intelligence officer.”
In 2007 Romney sourced Black in refusing to classify waterboarding as torture (and also said he wanted to “double Guantanamo”). As head of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center following 9/11, Black supervised the agency’s “extraordinary rendition” program, which illegally transported alleged terrorists to secret detention centers abroad, where they were tortured. “After 9/11 the gloves come off,” Black infamously testified before Congress.
This raises a related question that hasn’t generated much in the way of 2012 attention: with President Obama prohibiting torture, would a President Romney bring it back?
A three-year-long investigation by Senate Intelligence Committee Democrats has confirmed what we already knew: Bush-era torture did not produce valuable intelligence. With the information coinciding with the one-year anniversary of the Osama bin Laden mission, it has an even greater political salience.
But Team Romney hasn’t had much to say about this, which is curious.
Greg Sargent has been covering this, and he’s asking exactly the right question: “As president, would he revoke the executive order that Obama signed on his first day in office, restricting interrogation techniques to those in the Army Field Manual?”
Some cursory research suggests Romney hasn’t offered a perspective on the issue. Given his preference for avoiding firm stands that might bother his Republican base, it’s hard to believe he’ll be bold on opposition to torture.
But voters deserve an answer on this. Romney’s being advised by torture proponents, so it’s hardly unreasonable to ask whether he’ll be inclined to follow their lead if elected.