Marine Le Pen, the leader of the France's far right National Front party, caused a stir Wednesday when she was invited to comment on recent revelations of the CIA's use of "enhanced interrogation" methods in the aftermath of 9/11.
Speaking on French television channel BFM-TV, Le Pen said she "couldn't condemn" the use of torture, which is sometimes "useful." The politician seemingly missed the point of the US Senate Intelligence Committee's damning report released Tuesday, which highlighted the inefficiency of the many "brutal" techniques used by the CIA during its detention and interrogation program, which was in operation from 2002 to 2006.
According to the report, the tactics used by the CIA, under the Bush administration, ultimately failed to deliver the critical intelligence the agency claimed it had yielded. The report also found that the agency misled lawmakers and the public about the nature of its interrogation methods. Yet these findings did not deter Le Pen, whose father had been accused of torturing at least four men nearly 50 years ago during the Algerian war.
"When a bomb — tick tock tick tock tick tock — is about to explode in an hour or two, and will maybe kill 200 or 300 civilians, that's when [torture] is useful to make somebody talk," Le Pen said on camera.
The politician's comments were immediately picked up and criticized on social media.
Several hours after the interview, the National Front leader took to Twitter to denounce the "malicious interpretation" of her comments, adding that, "When dealing with terrorism we can't behave like angels."
Later the same evening, Le Pen posted another tweet claiming that the controversy was "entirely fabricated."
Interprétation malveillante. Face au terrorisme, pas d'angélisme. 'Les moyens qu'on peut' : les moyens de la loi, évidemment pas la torture.
— Marine Le Pen (@MLP_officiel)10 Décembre 2014
Members of the National Front have a history of making controversial statements.
In a 1987 interview on French radio RTL, Jean-Marie Le Pen, Marine's father and the National Front's founder, described WWII gas chambers as "a mere detail of history." He later defended the comment, saying he had not denied the existence of gas chambers, but rather, described them as one element among many that make up the history of WWII. A French court later found the elder Le Pen guilty of Holocaust denial and fined him 183,000 euros ($228,000).
French journalists and politicians waded into the latest National Front controversy this week. Some accused Marine Le Pen of backtracking on her statement, while others defended her, saying her comments had been misinterpreted.
Gilbert Collard, a member of parliament elected on the National Front ticket, told local media that while "torture has to be the last resort when you need to save lives," he would torture someone if he had to.
Rachida Dati, a member of the European Parliament and a former French justice minister, defended Marine Le Pen on BFM-TV, saying it was "too easy to attack her," and that she had "clarified her remarks," so was "not pro-torture."
Nearly 30 years ago, Jean-Marie Le Pen had made similar comments on torture in a 1987 interview with Le Monde, saying, "If you have to torture a man to save a hundred people, [or] resort to violence to locate a cluster of bombs, then torture is unavoidable."
In 2002, Le Monde published extracts of statements from four men who were allegedly tortured by Jean-Marie Le Pen during the 1954-1962 Algerian war. Le Pen, who founded and led the National Front party from 1972 until his resignation in 2011, took the paper to court for defamation, and lost.
French military officers who resorted to using torture during the Algerian war are now protected from prosecution by a range of French amnesty laws.
One of the men who testified in the Le Monde case was an Algerian man named Mohamed Chérif Moulay. Moulay claimed that in 1957, when he was only 12-years-old, French officers came to his house and tortured and executed his father in front of the family. One of the men allegedly left behind a Hitler youth dagger bearing the inscription: "J.M. LE PEN, 1st R.E.P."
Moulay, who died in 2012, claimed he gave the dagger to Le Monde in 2002. Today, the dagger is located in the national mujahideen museum in Algeria.
Marine Le Pen's comments came on the 30th anniversary of France's adoption of the UN international convention against torture, which forbids member states from engaging in torture or transferring prisoners to territories where torture is practiced.
VICE News France's Virgile dall'Armelllina contributed to this article.
Follow Etienne Rouillon on Twitter: @rouillonetienne