'Black site' prisons could be reinstated under President Trump

WASHINGTON, Jan 25 (Reuters) - President Donald Trump may order a review that could lead to bringing back a CIA program for holding terrorism suspects in secret overseas "black site" prisons where interrogation techniques often condemned as torture were used, two U.S. officials said on Wednesday.

The black sites were used to detain suspects captured in President George W. Bush's "war on terrorism" after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and were formally closed by former President Barack Obama.

Any return to the Bush administration's initial anti-terrorism tactics - including secret prisons and interrogation methods considered torture under international law - would likely alienate key U.S. allies in the fight against militant groups like al Qaeda and Islamic State.

SEE ALSO: Mexican president 'rejects' Trump orders, vows to protect immigrants inside US

The officials said Trump is expected to sign an executive order in the next few days. It would call for a high-level review into "whether to reinitiate a program of interrogation of high-value alien terrorists to be operated outside the United States" and whether the CIA should run the facilities, according to a copy of the draft published by the Washington Post.

Reuters could not independently verify the document.

Trump administration spokesman Sean Spicer said the draft was not a White House document. The draft published by the Washington Post appeared to have sections missing, suggesting that it may not have been a full version ready for Trump to sign.

RELATED: CIA's 2015 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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U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan said the Trump administration did not write the document.

"My understanding is this was written by somebody who worked on the transition before who's not in the Trump administration. This is not a product of the administration," Ryan said in an interview with MSNBC.

Aides to Obama said during his tenure that his prohibition against torture and efforts to close the Guantanamo prison in Cuba helped increase counterterrorism cooperation from U.S. allies in the Arab world.

The now-defunct program's practices dubbed enhanced interrogation techniques - which included simulated drowning, known as waterboarding - were criticized around the world and denounced by Obama and other senior U.S. officials as torture.

The document ignited a bipartisan outcry in Congress. Many people in U.S. intelligence agencies and within the military are opposed to reopening the harsh interrogation program, according to multiple serving officers.

"The President can sign whatever executive orders he likes. But the law is the law. We are not bringing back torture in the United States of America," Senator John McCain, a Republican who underwent torture as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, said in a statement.

The CIA black sites were located in Poland, Lithuania, Romania, Thailand and Afghanistan.

RELATED: Barack Obama's primetime address on terrorism 12/6

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WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 6: U.S. President Barack Obama addresses the country from the Oval Office on December 6, 2015 in Washington, DC. President Obama is addressing the terrorism threat to the United States and the recent attack in San Bernardino, California. (Photo by Saul Loeb-Pool/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 6: U.S. President Barack Obama addresses the country from the Oval Office on December 6, 2015 in Washington, DC. President Obama is addressing the terrorism threat to the United States and the recent attack in San Bernardino, California. (Photo by Saul Loeb-Pool/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama addresses the nation from the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, DC, on December 6, 2015. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP / NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 6: U.S. President Barack Obama addresses the country from the Oval Office on December 6, 2015 in Washington, DC. President Obama is addressing the terrorism threat to the United States and the recent attack in San Bernardino, California. (Photo by Saul Loeb-Pool/Getty Images)
IRVING, TEXAS - DECEMBER 06: Bar patrons watch as President Barack Obama addresses the nation from the Oval Office on December 6, 2015 at the DFW Airport in Irving, Texas. President Obama spoke about the government's campaign against the terrorist threat, following last week's attack in California. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
SAN BERNARDINO, CA - DECEMBER 06: Jonathan Tovar sits with his grandmother Helen Medina in her house, which was hit by bullets as police engaged in a gun battle with terror suspects on the street in front, as they watch President Barack Obama give a nationally-televised address from the White House about terrorism following the attack on the Inland Regional Center on December 6, 2015 in San Bernardino, California. Medina hid in her home as the police killed the terror suspects that attacked the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino that left 14 people dead and another 21 injured on December 2. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 6: U.S. President Barack Obama addresses the country from the Oval Office on December 6, 2015 in Washington, DC. President Obama is addressing the terrorism threat to the United States and the recent attack in San Bernardino, California. (Photo by Saul Loeb-Pool/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 6: U.S. President Barack Obama addresses the country from the Oval Office on December 6, 2015 in Washington, DC. President Obama is addressing the terrorism threat to the United States and the recent attack in San Bernardino, California. (Photo by Saul Loeb-Pool/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama addresses the nation from the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, DC, on December 6, 2015. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP / NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 06: U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a national address from the Oval Office of the White House December 6, 2015 in Washington, DC Obama was expected to speak on his plans to battle the threat of terror attacks and defeating ISIL in the wake of last week's attack in San Bernardino, California. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
A bartender at a hotel near the Inland Regional Center watches President Obama speak on TV during the aftermath of a mass shooting that killed 14 people on Sunday, December 6, 2015 in San Bernardino, California, USA. AFP PHOTO/PATRICK T. FALLON / AFP / Patrick T. Fallon (Photo credit should read PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. President Barack Obama delivers an address to the nation in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Sunday, Dec. 6, 2015. Obama sought to soothe a nation shaken by the terrorist attack in a California town with assurances that the U.S. is hardening its defenses that were tempered by an acknowledgment that the threat to the country is ever-evolving. Photographer: Saul Loeb/Pool via Bloomberg
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 06: U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a national address from the Oval Office of the White House December 6, 2015 in Washington, DC Obama was expected to speak on his plans to battle the threat of terror attacks and defeating ISIL in the wake of last week's attack in San Bernardino, California. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
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In 2006, Bush ended the use of harsh interrogation techniques and closed all the black sites except for one in Kabul.

Asked whether he wants waterboarding as president, Trump answered in an interview with ABC News: "I will rely on (CIA director Mike) Pompeo and (Defense Secretary James) Mattis and my group. And if they don't want to do it, that's fine. If they do want to do it, then I will work toward that end," Trump said.

"I want to do everything within the bounds of what we're allowed to do if it's legal. If they don't want to do it, that's fine. Do I feel it works? Absolutely I feel it works."

Mattis and Pompeo had not been aware such plans were in the works, according to a congressional source.

KEEP GUANTANAMO OPEN

Trump's draft order would authorize a review of interrogation techniques that U.S. officials could use on terrorism suspects, keep open the detention center at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and send new prisoners there.

Trump's draft also revokes directives by Obama to grant the International Committee of the Red Cross access to all detainees in U.S. custody and restrict interrogation methods to those in a U.S. Army field manual.

Trump vowed during the 2016 election campaign to resume waterboarding and a "hell of a lot worse" because even if torture does not work, "they deserve it anyway."

He has said he wanted to keep Guantanamo open and "load it up with some bad dudes."

RELATED: Inside Guantanamo Bay

Of the 41 prisoners left at Guantanamo, 10 face charges in war-crimes proceedings known as military commissions, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, accused mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and his alleged co-conspirators. Bush established the military commissions, which Obama later changed.

The draft order said, "No person in the custody of the United States shall at any time be subjected to torture, or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, as proscribed by U.S. law." It does not mention international laws to which the United States is a signatory that prohibit torture.

Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act in 2015, which reaffirmed a prohibition on torture and required U.S. interrogators to adhere to techniques in the Army field manual.

However, the Justice Department under Trump could issue an interpretation of U.S. law that allows for the use of harsh interrogation techniques as occurred in the "torture memos" drafted under the Bush administration in 2002 and subsequently withdrawn.

Despite the killing of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden during Obama's presidency, the dramatic spread of groups like Islamic State has exacerbated the threat from violent Islamist organizations.

SEE ALSO: North Korea defector: Kim Jong Un's days are numbered

In a statement accompanying the draft order, the administration criticizes Obama's policies, saying, "The United States has refrained from exercising certain authorities critical to its defense." But it acknowledges that the National Defense Authorization Act "provides a significant statutory barrier to the resumption of the CIA interrogation program."

"WORRISOME"

Human rights groups decried any attempt to bring back the black sites.

"This is an extremely disturbing and outrageous attempt to open the door again to systematic torture and secret detention. This is the Trump administration making good on its most worrisome comments during the campaign," said Naureen Shah, Amnesty International USA's director of national security and human rights.

Critics say a return to harsh interrogations would enflame tensions in Muslim countries and be counterproductive.

In the draft document, references to the "global war on terrorism" were edited and replaced with the phrase "fight against radical Islamism," reflecting language Trump often uses.

A former senior U.S. intelligence official, who requested anonymity, said many CIA officers would oppose reinstatement of black site interrogations, in part because they were forced to obtain lawyers after the withdrawal of the Justice Department memos that legalized the harsh techniques.

"People felt they were hung out to dry," the former official said. "There is a lack of trust there."

Moreover, he said, it would be extremely difficult to persuade other governments to allow the CIA to establish secret prisons on their soil.

"Where are you going to do this?" he asked. "How many countries are going to jump back into the U.S. lap?

RELATED: America's history with torture

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Activists from Amnesty International human rights association wear orange uniforms like Guantamo detainees and hold a banner reading 'Investigate and prosecute US Torture' during a protest action on the Potsdamer Platz in Berlin, on June 19, 2013 where US President has his hotel during his official visit. Protestors urged US President Barack Obama Wednesday to close the Guantanamo Bay military jail in the first of a scattering of demonstrations on myriad issues planned at Berlin landmarks for his landmark 24-hour visit. AFP PHOTO / OLIVER LANG (Photo credit should read OLIVER LANG/AFP/Getty Images)
FERGUSON, MO - NOVEMBER 05: A memorial of stuffed animals, flowers, tee-shirts and ball caps remains on November 5, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. The memorial is found at the location where Michael Brown was shot and killed by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. Rioting broke out in the city following Brown's death on August 9th. Rioting spilled out from the neighborhood where he was shot and into the nearby business district. The city is hoping to avoid a repeat of those riots if the grand jury investigating the shooting does not find justification to prosecute Wilson. The grand jurys decision is expected within the next couple of weeks. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
GUANTANAMO NAVAL BASE, UNITED STATES: (FILES) This 02 March 2002 file photo shows a detainee being guided by two US Army MPs at Camp X-Ray in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. In a confidential report, the International Committee of the Red Cross said it found prisoner abuse that a mounted to 'a form of torture' at the US military facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, The New York Times reported 30 November, 2004. Based on a visit to the prison in June, an ICRC team that included humanitarian workers and experienced medical personel found a system devised to break the will of prisoners through 'humiliating acts, solitary confinement, temperature extremes, use of forced positions.' 'The construction of such a system, whose stated purpose is the production of intelligence, cannot be considered other than an intentional system of cruel, unusual and degrading treatment and a form of torture,' the report said. Sent to the US government in July, the report, a detailed memorandum of which was obtained recently by The New York Times, said the prisoners were also exposed to loud and persistent noise and music and to prolonged cold. AFP PHOTO/FILES/Peter MUHLY (Photo credit should read PETER MUHLY/AFP/Getty Images)
FERGUSON, MO - NOVEMBER 05: A memorial of stuffed animals, flowers, tee-shirts and ball caps remains on November 5, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. The memorial is found at the location where Michael Brown was shot and killed by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. Rioting broke out in the city following Brown's death on August 9th. Rioting spilled out from the neighborhood where he was shot and into the nearby business district. The city is hoping to avoid a repeat of those riots if the grand jury investigating the shooting does not find justification to prosecute Wilson. The grand jurys decision is expected within the next couple of weeks. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 23: Tourists walk past demonstrators dressed as Guantanamo detainees as they urge President Barack Obama to fulfill his pledge to close the military prison in Cuba and end indefinite detention during a rally outside the White House May 23, 2014 in Washington, DC. Organized by several groups, including The National Religious Campaign Against Torture, CODEPINK, Amnesty International, the Torture Abolition and Survivor Support Coalition and the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker, the protesters gathered to mark the anniversary of Obama's May 23, 2013 national security speech. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
The sun rises over the Camp Delta detention center at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on Thursday, Oct. 18, 2012. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the accused mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, urged a military judge at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay yesterday to avoid using an expansive definition of national security that the defendant said would justify torture and killing. Photographer: Michelle Shepard/Pool via Bloomberg
A sign is posted in front of a war crimes courtroom at Camp Justice at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on Sunday, Oct. 14, 2012. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the accused mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, urged a military judge at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay yesterday to avoid using an expansive definition of national security that the defendant said would justify torture and killing. Photographer: Michelle Shepard/Pool via Bloomberg
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 11: Members of the organization Witness Against Torture wear orange prison jump suits with handcuffs and a hood over their heads during a demonstration urging the government to close down the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, in Lafayette Park outside the White House January 11, 2012 in Washington, DC. Protesters carry on a 92-hour vigil in a protest of the 10th anniversary of the arrival of the first group of detainees to arrive at the US military facility (Photo by Astrid Riecken/Getty Images)
Beth Brockman of the organization Witness Against Torture wears an orange prison jump suit with handcuffs and a hood over her head as she sits in a cage during a demonstration in Lafayette Park outside the White House in Washington, DC, on January 10, 2012, urging the government to close down the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. Protesters plan to carry on a 92-hour vigil in a protest of the 10th anniversary of the arrival of the first group of detainees to arrive at the US military facility. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Protesters portraying detainees at Guatanamo Bay line a balcony May 28, 2009 in New York's Grand Central Terminal. Groups are calling for the release of photos from detention centers and prosecution for war crimes of those officials of the Bush administration who directed, wrote legal justification for and participated in torture. AFP PHOTO / Stan Honda (Photo credit should read STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - AUGUST 14: Artist Steve Powers' (L) installation 'Waterboard Thrill Ride' is seen at the Coney Island arcade August 14, 2008 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. After a dollar bill is fed into a machine, the creation features robots performing the controversial CIA interrogation technique used on terror detainees at Guantanamo Bay. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
GUANTANAMO, CUBA: (From L to R) Adele Welly, mother of a fireman killed on the 9/11 attacks in New York; Asif Igbal, a British national of Pakistani origin who was a former prisoner at the US detention camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; the mother and brother of detainee Omar Deghayes, Zohra Zewawi and Taher Daghayes resepctively; Medea Benjamin, organizer of the event and lawyer Bill Goodman, take part in an international meeting held to call for the prison's closure, in Guantanamo, Cuba, on January 10th, 2007. The activists will join an international demonstration at the gates of the US naval base to mark the fifth anniversary of the arrival of the first 'war-on-terror' inmates. Some 395 prisoners are currently being held in Guantanamo. The banner reads 'No to Torture. Close Guantanamo'. AFP PHOTO/ADALBERTO ROQUE (Photo credit should read ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP/Getty Images)
Guantanamo Bay, CUBA: FOR USE WITH AFP STORIES: US-attacks-UN-Guantanamo (FILES) This 17 January, 2002, file photo shows a detainee (2nd L) wearing an orange jump suit surrounded by heavy security at the US Guantanamo Naval Base in Cuba. UN experts said on 16 February, 2006, the US must shut down the detention center without delay and release or try its inmates. The demand came in a report by five independent experts who act as monitors for the UN Human Rights Commission. The document charged that US treatment of the more than 500 'war on terror' detainees held in legal limbo at the naval base in Cuba violated their rights to physical and mental health and in some cases amounted to torture. The White House blasted the UN report, alleging abuse of inmates and calling for closing the facility, as 'a discredit to the UN.' AFP PHOTO/ROBERTO SCHMIDT/FILES (Photo credit should read ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)
Guantanamo Bay, CUBA: FOR USE WITH AFP STORIES: US-attacks-UN-Guantanamo (FILES) Picture taken 10 January, 2006 shows a watchtower at Camp X-ray on the US Naval Base of Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. UN experts said on 16 February, 2006, the US must shut down the Guantanamo detention center without delay and release or try its inmates. The demand came in a report by five independent experts who act as monitors for the UN Human Rights Commission. The document charged that US treatment of the more than 500 'war on terror' detainees held in legal limbo at the naval base in Cuba violated their rights to physical and mental health and in some cases amounted to torture. The White House blasted the UN report, alleging abuse of inmates and calling for closing the facility, as 'a discredit to the UN.' AFP PHOTO/Gersende RAMBOURG/FILES (Photo credit should read GERSENDE RAMBOURG/AFP/Getty Images)
In this photo reviewed by US military officials, an unidentified detainee prays 06 April, 2006 inside the compound of Camp Delta detention center, at the Guantanamo Bay US Naval Base in Cuba. An Ethiopian accused of plotting with Al-Qaeda mocked his Guantanamo tribunal Thursday, saying prosecutors had incorrect information despite 'four years of torture.' 'You have the wrong person in the seat,' said the terror suspect, who US military authorities identify as Binyam Muhammad. (Photo credit should read BRENNAN LINSLEY/AFP/Getty Images)
BERLIN, GERMANY - MAY 22: Murat Kurnaz, who spent five years as a prisoner at Guantanamo, attends the premiere of '5 Jahre Leben' at Kino International on May 22, 2013 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
FERGUSON, MO - NOVEMBER 10: A school bus passes demonstrators protesting outside the police station on November 10, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. As the suburb prepares for the grand jury decision in the shooting death of Michael Brown, school leaders have urged officials to announce the finding outside of school hours so that children will not be at risk of being caught up in rioting if it occurs. Businesses in Ferguson were looted and vandalized during rioting which broke out after Brown was killed by Darren Wilson, a Ferguson police officer. The city is hoping to avoid a repeat of those riots if the grand jury investigating the shooting does not find justification to prosecute Wilson. The grand jurys decision is expected sometime in November. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
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Trump's order, if enacted, could put new CIA Director Pompeo in a tight spot given that his workforce, according to multiple serving officers, largely opposes reinstating the black sites program. It could also complicate the confirmation of Trump's nominee for the job of director of national intelligence, former U.S. Senator Dan Coats.

As a conservative Republican congressman from Kansas, Pompeo defended the CIA's use of harsh interrogation techniques, arguing that they produced useful intelligence.

During his confirmation hearing for CIA director, he pledged he would "absolutely not" reinstate those methods. Yet in written responses to questions from Senate Intelligence Committee members, he appeared to leave the door open to restoring them.

"If experts believed the current law was an impediment to gathering vital intelligence to protect the country, I would want to understand such impediments and whether any recommendations were appropriate for changing current law," Pompeo wrote. (Writing by Yara Bayoumy; Additional reporting by Warren Strobel, Matt Spetalnick and Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Alistair Bell, Jonathan Oatis and Leslie Adler)

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