Senators and CIA feud over nomination of Haspel to head agency

Senators and CIA feud over nomination of Haspel to head agency

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Gina Haspel, nominated to be CIA director, faces increasing questions about her role in CIA torture programs (CIA photo)

WASHINGTON — The CIA and some Democratic members of the Senate remain at fierce odds over the sharing of information that could shed light on how involved CIA director nominee Gina Haspel was in torture programs run by the agency.

Haspel is scheduled to appear on May 9 before the Senate Intelligence Committee for her confirmation hearing. As of now, that hearing is to be open to the public.

Senators on the committee said Thursday that the CIA’s offer this week to share limited information on Haspel’s nomination fell short of the metrics that committee members need to fully appraise her role in the use of torture and other activities.

“Concealing her background when no sources and methods are at stake shows nothing but contempt for the Senate and the public,” they said in a joint statement released to the media. “We believe senators and the American public have the need to know whether or not the nominee before us was a senior manager for a program that has been shown to be deeply flawed, as well as a number of other disturbing facts about her record.”

Haspel has been nominated to replace Mike Pompeo as CIA director, pending his confirmation as secretary of state. His vote on confirmation in the Senate could come Thursday.

Haspel was named CIA’s deputy director last year, a position that did not require a Senate vote. If Haspel is confirmed, she will be the first woman to lead the CIA.

There was opposition to her nomination almost immediately because of her involvement with the agency’s torture program launched after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. She also was involved in overseeing a so-called “black site” — meaning it was not on the books as a CIA location — named “Cat’s Eye” in Thailand, where key terrorist suspects were tortured and where she was in charge for a period of time, according to numerous news reports. She also is under scrutiny for her destruction of videotapes showing interrogations of al-Qaeda prisoners.

The committee is scrambling for additional information since 32 of Haspel’s 33 years at the CIA were spent undercover and thus her activities are considered classified. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, is seeking a copy of a 2010 Justice Department report on the probe into the destruction of the videotapes, his office said.

On Monday more than 100 retired generals and admirals told Congress in a letter that Haspel’s association with torture “would send a terrible signal” in elevating “someone who was so intimately involved in this dark chapter in our nation’s history.”

“We are deeply troubled by the prospect of someone who appears to have been intimately involved in torture being elevated to one of the most important positions of leadership in the intelligence community,” the retired military leaders said in the letter to all 100 senators. “Should you find that she played any role in carrying out, supervising, or directing the torture or abuse of people in U.S. custody, or the destruction of evidence relating to these activities, we urge you to reject her nomination.”

“We do not accept efforts to excuse her actions relating to torture and other unlawful abuse of detainees by offering that she was ‘just following orders,’ or that shock from the 9/11 terrorist attacks should excuse illegal and unethical conduct. We did not accept the ‘just following orders’ justification after World War II, and we should not accept it now,” they wrote in the letter.

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