The architect behind the CIA's torture program blames 'political correctness' for why the US doesn't torture anymore

The United States' ban on waterboarding and other forms of torture qualifies as "political correctness," according to James Mitchell, a key figure behind the CIA's torture program.

Mitchell discussed the CIA's torture program, as well as his interactions with high-profile terrorists like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in an interview at the American Enterprise Institute on Tuesday.

"The same thing has happened to the word torture that has happened to the word racist. It has lost its meaning," Mitchell said, addressing the waterboarding ban.

Related: CIA Torture Report

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Ambassador James Woolsey, who was CIA Director from 1993 to 1995, insists the torture report should never have been released. (The National Academy of Sciences/Flickr)
UNITED STATES - DECEMBER 09: Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, talks with reporters after sharing a report on the CIA and it's torture methods, December 9, 2014. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 09: U.S. Senate Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) (R), and Senate Minority Whip Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) (L), listen as the Senate Republican speak to members of the media after the Senate Republican Policy Luncheon at the Capitol December 9, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The Senate Republican leadership responded to a report on CIA's use of torture conducted by the Senate Intelligence Committee where were released today. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 9: Sen. Diane Feinstein(D-CA), makes her way through a crush of reporters toward the Senate floor to deliver her remarks on the CIA report on torture released this morning on December, 09, 2014 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 09: U.S. Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) speaks to members of the media after the Senate Democratic Policy Luncheon at the Capitol December 9, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Senator Reid responded to a report on CIA's use of torture conducted by the Senate Intelligence Committee where were released today. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Pakistani private security guards stand on duty outside the US consulate in Lahore on December 9, 2014. The US Senate will release a long-delayed report into the CIA's brutal interrogation of Al-Qaeda suspects after the 2001 attacks, as American embassies went on heightened alert amid fears of a backlash. AFP PHOTO / Arif ALI (Photo credit should read Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images)
A lighthouse and old migrants boats on the ground of the marine museum, on Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014 at the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in this photo approved for release by the U.S. military. (Walter Michot/Miami Herald/TNS via Getty Images)
The original courtroom at the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in this photo approved for release by the U.S. military. (Walter Michot/Miami Herald/TNS via Getty Images)
A display of the restraint chair that the Navy medics use to tube-feed hunger strikers on Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014 at the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in this photo approved for release by the U.S. military. (Walter Michot/Miami Herald/TNS via Getty Images)
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He continued: "At some point, if this obsessive political correctness continues, we're going to be standing on the moral high ground, looking down into a smoking hole that used to be several blocks in Los Angeles."

To avoid catastrophe, Mitchell said, people have to make "hard decisions," and he condemned his critics for what he characterized as the hypocrisy of censuring enhanced interrogation methods while asking intelligence officers to keep Americans safe using whatever means necessary.

Mitchell has been harshly criticized by human rights advocates and the American Psychological Association for the tactics he and other interrogators employed while attempting to elicit information from suspected terrorists.

A 2014 Senate Intelligence Committee report on the CIA's torture program found that in addition to waterboarding, interrogators implemented rectal feeding, made threats of rape and murder against the families and children of terrorists, killed at least one prisoner by hypothermia, and forced some prisoners to play Russian Roulette. The report found that the tactics used had ultimately proved ineffective.

Mitchell challenged the report's findings on Tuesday, saying enhanced interrogation tactics had proven useful in eliciting important snippets of information from suspected terrorists. He added that he wouldn't classify waterboarding as torture.

"If [waterboarding] was torture, they wouldn't have had to pass a law in 2015 outlawing it. Because torture's already illegal," Mitchell said, referring to a 2015 law that limits government interrogation techniques to those listed in the Army Field Manual, which details humane methods of interrogation and does not include waterboarding.

President-elect Donald Trump has said in the past that he would like to implement waterboarding and "a hell of a lot worse" because "torture works." Trump indicated in November that his pick for Secretary of Defense, Marine Gen. James Mattis, convinced him to rethink his stance on waterboarding.

Reinstating waterboarding would not be easy. It is currently prohibited by federal law and faces bipartisan opposition in Congress.

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