Marine Le Pen on Wednesday tweeted that it was “malicious” to interpret her reply to a TV interviewer earlier in the day were a defence of using torture.
Asked on BFMTV to comment on the damning report on the CIA’s use of torture that hit world headlines on Tuesday, Le Pen answered, "I don't personally disapprove."
"On these subjects it is pretty easy to come into a television studio and say 'Ouh la la, that is bad!'," she said.
People who “deal with terrorists” are “responsible people", she went on, but the US needs to find out of there has been abuse.
“Allow me to say this,” the FN leader added. “There can be cases, for example when a bomb is ticking – tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock - and will explode in an hour or two and could cause 200 or 300 civilian victims when it is useful to get someone to talk."
Asked whether torture could be used to do so she said, "With the means at your disposal."
As her comments hit social media and news websites, Le Pen tweeted that she was the victim of a “malicious interpretation”, insisting that she meant “legal means, obviously not torture”.
But the tweet does not seem to have reached Gilbert Collard, an MP elected on the Front National’s Rassemblement Bleu Marine ticket.
“Torture for torture’s sake is appalling,” he told BFMTV’s rival, i-Télé but he described a refusal to use it if it can save lives as “cowardice”.
“If, to save 20 or 10 or two or one life, I have to mistreat a torturer, I do it,” Collard said. “I do it with disgust but these choices are absolutely courageous.”
The US report found that CIA agents had used brutal techniques, including waterboarding, Russian roulette and unnecessary rectal feeding and then misled elected representatives about their use and effectiveness.
Seven of 39 detainees known to have been subjected to “enhanced interrogations” were found to have “produced no intelligence while in CIA custody," while others "provided significant accurate intelligence prior to or without having been subjected to these techniques", the report said.
French Socialist Party spokesperson Corinne Narassuiguin claimed that Le Pen’s “backpedalling” on Twitter demonstrated her “frivolity” in addressing the question, accusing the far-right leader of basing her analysis on the TV series 24.
“All intelligence experts know that such a scenario is improbable and it has been shown that torture does not produce viable information,” she said.
Le Pen's father, Jean-Marie, who founded the FN, has several times been accused of practising torture while serving as a paratrooper in Algeria.