A draft executive order shows President Donald Trump asking for a review of America’s methods for interrogating terror suspects and whether the US should reopen CIA-run “black site” prisons outside the United States.
The order would also continue America’s use of the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The Associated Press obtained a copy of the draft from a US official.
The document instructs senior national security officers to “recommend to the president whether to reinitiate a program of interrogation of high-value alien terrorists to be operated outside the United States and whether such program should include the use of detention facilities operated by the Central Intelligence Agency”.
The document says US laws should be obeyed at all times and explicitly rejects “torture”.
Republican Senator John McCain pushed back on any efforts by Mr Trump to use an executive order to allow enhanced interrogation.
In a statement, the chairman of the armed services committee said 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”.
Mr McCain pointed out that the Senate voted overwhelmingly in June 2015 for prohibiting torture and endorsing only those techniques spelled out in the Army Field Manual.
Waterboarding and other forms of enhanced interrogation are not included in the field manual.
The Arizona senator also said that defence secretary James Mattis and CIA director Mike Pompeo assured him that they would support the Army Field Manual.
Mr McCain said he was “confident these leaders will be true to their word”.
The news comes just hours after President Trump signed executive orders to revive the Dakota Access and Keystone XL oil pipelines, another step in his effort to dismantle former president Barack Obama’s environmental legacy.