WASHINGTON, March 17 (Reuters) - The top U.S. military officer told the Senate on Thursday that it would harm the morale of U.S. forces to order them to carry out activities such as waterboarding or targeting civilians, options previously cited by leading Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.
Marine General Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, did not comment on U.S. politics, and Trump's name did not come up in a question put to him by Senator Lindsey Graham or in Dunford's response.
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Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Joseph Dunford testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Navy budget request for FY2016 in Washington, Tuesday, March 10, 2015. (AP Photo/Molly Riley)
Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Joseph Dunford, left, greets Medal of Honor recipient Kyle Carpenter after Carpenter ran the 39th Marine Corps Marathon, Sunday, Oct. 26, 2014 in Arlington, Va. The race includes runners from 59 nations and each branch of the U.S. armed forces. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Outgoing commander of ISAF, U.S. Gen. Joseph Dunford, first left, and incoming U.S. Army Commander for International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF), Gen. John F. Campbell, first right, sit before the change of command ceremony at the ISAF Headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014. ISAF is a NATO-led security mission in Afghanistan that was established by the United Nations Security Council in 2001. It will end its mission at the end of 2014. (AP Photo/Massoud Hossaini)
Outgoing commander of ISAF, U.S. Gen. Joseph Dunford speaks during a change of command ceremony at the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014. ISAF is a NATO-led security mission in Afghanistan that was established by the United Nations Security Council in 2001. It will end its mission at the end of 2014. (AP Photo/Massoud Hossaini)
Gen. Joseph Dunford testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, July 17, 2014, before the Senate Armed Service Committee hearing on his nomination to be the next commandant of the Marine Corps. Speaking before the committee, Dunford laid out a sober assessment of the Afghan security forces, saying there will still be critical aviation and intelligence-gathering gaps in their ability to conduct counterterrorism operations in 2016. He said the current plan requires U.S. forces to shift to Kabul in 2016, significantly reducing U.S. ability to assist in the counterterror fight. (AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke)
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, right, is greeted by U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan James Cunningham, center, and Marine General Joseph Dunford, left, commander of the US-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), during his arrival to Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan, Sunday, June 1, 2014. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, POOL)
FILE - In this May 28, 2014, file photo, Gen. Joseph Dunford, points during a news conference at the ISAF Headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan. The top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan said the U.S. has increased its surveillance over the Afghan-Pakistani border, as Pakistan pounds a militant stronghold with airstrikes. (AP Photo/Massoud Hossaini, File)
President Barack Obama, left, is introduced by Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, commander of the US-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) after arriving for a troop rally during an unannounced visit to Bagram Air Field, north of Kabul, Afghanistan, on Sunday, May 25, 2014. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
President Barack Obama, left, speaks during a briefing by Marine General Joseph Dunford, commander of the US-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), after arriving at Bagram Air Field for an unannounced visit, on Sunday, May 25, 2014, north of Kabul, Afghanistan. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., Commander, International Security Assistance Force, arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, March 12, 2014, to testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee on the situation in Afghanistan. President Barack Obama has threatened to withdraw all American forces from Afghanistan if a new security agreement is not signed by the end of the year, but there is no legal reason the U.S. has to resort to the "zero option," as administration officials have repeatedly claimed. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen (L) and the Commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, Joseph Dunford, arrive for a press conference at Camp Marmal in Mazar-e-Sharif on December 22, 2013. Von der Leyen is on a two day visit in Afghanistan. AFP PHOTO/JOHANNES EISELE (Photo credit should read JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images)
Commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, Joseph Dunford (2L) leaves the Afghan loya Jirga, a meeting of around 2,500 Afghan tribal elders and leaders, on the first day of the four-day long loya jirga in Kabul on November 21, 2013. Afghan President Hamid Karzai backed a proposed security pact with the United States that will see up to 15,000 foreign troops remain in Afghanistan as a chance to bring stability to the wartorn country. A grand assembly of tribal chieftains, community elders and politicians began four days of debating the bilateral security agreement (BSA), which will shape Washington's future military presence in Afghanistan. AFP PHOTO/Massoud HOSSAINI (Photo credit should read MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/Getty Images)
Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, who commands the U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), speaks during an interview with The Associated Press at the ISAF headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Aug. 10, 2013. The top U.S. and coalition commander in Afghanistan said the signing of a bilateral security agreement between America and Afghanistan will send a clear signal both to the Afghan people and the Taliban that the international community is committed to the future stability of the country even as foreign forces withdraw. (AP Photo/Ahmad Jamshid)
General Joseph F. Dunford (L), Commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and United States Forces in Afghanistan, shakes hands with a soldier during a naturalisation ceremony at the US base in Bagram, north of Kabul, on July 4, 2013. More than 30 US service members received their American citizenship in a naturalisation Ceremony at the Bagram airbase on July 4. The Naturalisation ceremony, held on the US Independence Day, is the final step in becoming a US citizen for these service members and recognises their sacrifice, contributions, and patriotism to the United States of America. AFP PHOTO/ SHAH Marai (Photo credit should read SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images)
US Marine General Joseph F. Dunford, Jr. speaks during a hearing of the Senate Armed Service Committee on Capitol Hill November 15, 2012 in Washington, DC. The committee called US Marine General Joseph F. Dunford, Jr. to testify at his confirmation hearing to become the next Commander, International Security Assistance Force, and Commander of US Forces in Afghanistan. AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Gen. Joseph Dunford, Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps, speaks to attendees at groundbreaking ceremony for traumatic Brain Injury Center on Camp Lejeune, Jacksonville, N.C., Wednesday afternoon June 13, 2012. (AP Photo/The Daily News, John Althouse)
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However, when asked by Graham, a former 2016 White House contender and frequent Trump critic, what the impact such tactics would have on the morale of the force, Dunford said:
"Those kinds of activities that you described are inconsistent with the values of our nation. And quite frankly I think it would have an adverse effect," citing fallout on the morale of the force.
"And frankly what you are suggesting are things that actually aren't legal for them to do anyway," Dunford added.
During the campaign, Trump indicated that, if elected president, he might order the U.S. military to break the law on interrogation tactics, including waterboarding. Trump also suggested his willingness to target the families of terrorist suspects.
Trump, the Republican front-runner, softened his stance on torture earlier in March, saying he would not order the U.S. military to break international laws on how to treat terrorism suspects.
Waterboarding is the practice of pouring water over someone's face to mimic drowning as an interrogation tactic. Critics say it is torture. Democratic President Barack Obama banned use of the method days after taking office in 2009.