Central Intelligence Agency nominee toughens interrogation stance, picks up support

Clay Curtis
May 16, 2018

The Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday recommended Gina Haspel be confirmed as CIA director, and now the full Senate will later vote on her nomination.

The constructive assessment units her up for a closing vote earlier than the total Senate within the coming days.

It was Haspel's reticence to say that the CIA's interrogation program was, in retrospect, morally wrong that sparked the Senate's authorities on torture - namely, Sens.

The admission seems to have eased the worries of Warner who announced he would back Haspel's nomination hours after she sent the letter claiming that torture was now contrary to her "moral and ethical values".

While she said she now disagrees with the operations, she declined to take issue with her predecessors' decisions - and said the torture sometimes produced useful information. Harris said Haspel running the CIA would not be the best "signal to the workforce of that agency, to the American people or to our neighbors around the globe".

All eight Republicans and two of the seven Democrats on the Senate intelligence committee supported Haspel.

"With the benefit of hindsight and my experience as a senior agency leader, the enhanced interrogation program is not one the CIA should have undertaken", according to Haspel's written answers to some 60 additional questions from lawmakers. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who endured years of it as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who authored the Senate's definitive report on the CIA's practices - to declare Haspel unconfirmable.

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With two of 51 Republicans committed to voting against Haspel, and five Democrats already indicating they will support her, it appears she is set to become the agency's first female director.

But Democrat Ron Wyden, one of the most strident opponents to the torture program, said he still has "grave concerns" about her suitability, rooted in still-classified matters that Haspel and the agency refused to make public.

"This country has not held any officials accountable for the use of torture, so it's even more outrageous that the government is considering someone to the chief intelligence position in spite of her alleged participation in that clearly illegal and immoral activity."
"There is no reason why her confirmation should be delayed - and I look forward to advancing it expeditiously following the committee's action".

"While I won't condemn those that made those hard calls, and I have noted the valuable intelligence collected, the program ultimately did damage to our officers and our standing in the world", Haspel said in a letter, dated May 14, and released on Tuesday. That support means she is all but sure to be confirmed as director of the Central Intelligence Agency when the full senate votes. Her maneuvering with Warner came as the Trump administration worked overtime to attract support for her.

But during her confirmation hearing last week, she said she doesn't believe torture works as an interrogation technique and that her "strong moral compass" would prevent her from carrying out any presidential order she found objectionable.

In addition to Warner, Joe Donnelly of IN said Saturday that he made his decision after "a tough, frank and extensive discussion" with Haspel. McCain is not expected to be in Washington for Haspel's confirmation vote.

Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, McCain's Arizona colleague, has said he's undecided.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell hinted Tuesday that Haspel's confirmation vote could come relatively soon.

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