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.

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.

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