Story highlights

Donald Trump, speaking at a rally in South Carolina, said "torture works"

It's an escalation from his recent remarks where he defend "waterboarding" and "enhanced interrogation techniques"

Bluffton, South Carolina CNN  — 

Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump stepped up his defense Wednesday of enhanced interrogation techniques when dealing with terror detainees, saying “torture works.”

“Of course waterboarding is bad, but it’s not like chopping off heads,” Trump said at a campaign event in Bluffton, South Carolina.

The billionaire businessman has repeatedly defended the use of waterboarding in recent days since he mentioned it at a Republican debate earlier this month. Trump wrote an op-ed in USA Today on Monday saying he wouldn’t “take anything off the table” when interrogating terror detainees, but Wednesday’s remarks were the first time he embraced the word “torture.”

Many U.S. military commanders have long opposed the use of torture out of concern that it makes it more likely enemy forces will do the same to captured U.S. soldiers.

In addition, numerous U.S. commanders have argued that information obtained under torture is rarely accurate or useful. Sixteen retired commanders joined President Barack Obama in the Oval Office when he signed an executive order banning the use of torture on his second day in office. Congress codified the order into law in 2015.

Torture is also banned by a U.N. convention ratified by the U.S.

Trump is campaigning in South Carolina, where he leads in the polls going into Saturday’s Republican primary.

UPDATE: This story has been updated to reflect that Obama’s executive order banning torture was codified into law in 2015.