State, CIA picks face tough confirmation
Torture history dogs CIA nom Haspel
WASHINGTON, March 14, (Agencies): Senate confirmation isn’t expected to go as smoothly for President Donald Trump’s new selections for secretary of state and CIA director as they did last year.
Senate Democrats — and some top Republicans — are slow-walking the process amid fresh questions over the Trump administration’s stance toward Russia and the CIA’s dark history of torture.
Trump’s firing of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson touched off a confirmation battle that will play out ahead of midterm elections, which determine party control of Congress.
Trump’s pick to replace Tillerson, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, is expected to be asked about his loyalty to Trump and his approach toward Russia.
And Trump’s choice to replace Pompeo at the CIA, Gina Haspel, is likely to be asked about her role in the CIA’s interrogation program.
Meanwhile, CIA director nominee Haspel could face a tough confirmation battle after a number of lawmakers raised questions Tuesday about her past involvement in torture of detainees.
A veteran of the Central Intelligence Agency’s black operations, Haspel, 61, was nominated by President Donald Trump to lead the top US espionage body, after he named current CIA director Mike Pompeo to be secretary of state.
Haspel is widely respected in the intelligence community as a disciplined, non-political field agent who took on hardship positions and unsavory jobs. From that she rose to manage the global clandestine network before becoming deputy director one year ago.
But her history during the US “war on terror,” overseeing interrogations in CIA black sites later exposed as torture, has already set back her career once and could stand in the way again.
Several senior politicians said they would challenge her over torture, ensuring a likely heated debate when she goes up before the Senate Intelligence Committee for confirmation in the coming weeks.
“The torture of detainees in US custody during the last decade was one of the darkest chapters in American history,” said Republican Senator John McCain, who himself was tortured as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam.
“Ms Haspel needs to explain the nature and extent of her involvement in the CIA’s interrogation program during the confirmation process.”
“Ms Haspel’s background makes her unsuitable to serve as CIA director,” said Democratic Senator Ron Wyden.
Haspel would be the first woman ever to run the CIA. She joined in 1985 and served as chief of station in several posts around the world.
In 2013, she was named to head the National Clandestine Service. But she was quickly replaced after political questions were raised over her role in post-9/11 interrogations.