CIA nom­i­nee wins Se­nate panel back­ing

The Times Herald (Norristown, PA) - - NEWS - By Deb Riechmann

WASH­ING­TON » Gina Haspel, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s nom­i­nee to head the CIA, won the back­ing of the Se­nate in­tel­li­gence com­mit­tee on Wed­nes­day, paving the way for her ex­pected con­fir­ma­tion to lead the spy agency.

The panel voted 10-5 to ad­vise the full Se­nate to con­firm Haspel, whose nom­i­na­tion has re­newed de­bate over the harsh in­ter­ro­ga­tion pro­gram the CIA con­ducted on ter­ror sus­pects after 9/11. Haspel, who su­per­vised a CIA de­ten­tion site in Thai­land in 2002, has told Congress that the agency shouldn’t have used those harsh tac­tics and has vowed not to restart them.

The com­mit­tee re­leased the re­sult of the vote, con­ducted in closed ses­sion, with­out giv­ing fur­ther de­tails. How­ever, all eight Repub­li­cans and two of the seven Democrats on the panel ear­lier ex­pressed sup­port for Haspel. The re­main­ing five Democrats had an­nounced their op­po­si­tion.

The con­fir­ma­tion vote by the full Se­nate could oc­cur be­fore the end of the week.

“Gina Haspel is the most qual­i­fied per­son the pres­i­dent could choose to lead the CIA and the most pre­pared nom­i­nee in the 70 year his­tory of the agency,” said Chair­man Richard Burr, RN.C. “She has acted morally, eth­i­cally, and legally, over a dis­tin­guished 30-year ca­reer and is the right per­son to lead the agency into an uncer­tain and chal­leng­ing future.”

She also had the sup­port of the com­mit­tee’s top-rank­ing Demo­crat, Sen. Mark Warner of Vir­ginia.

“As di­rec­tor of the CIA, Gina Haspel will be the first op­er­a­tions of­fi­cer in more than five decades to lead the agency,” Warner said.

“Most im­por­tantly, I be­lieve she is some­one who can and will stand up to the pres­i­dent if or­dered to do some­thing il­le­gal or im­moral — like a re­turn to tor­ture,” he said.

Sen. Ron Wy­den, D-Ore., who has staunchly op­posed Haspel, called her nom­i­na­tion one of the most “self­serv­ing abuses of power in re­cent his­tory” be­cause Haspel, as act­ing CIA di­rec­tor, was in a de­ci­sion­mak­ing role in de­ter­min­ing what parts of her un­der­cover ca­reer were de­clas­si­fied. He likened that to a “stack­ing of the deck” and said he would con­tinue to seek the de­clas­si­fi­ca­tion of de­tails about her past ac­tiv­i­ties at the agency.

Warner said he would con­tinue to seek the de­clas­si­fi­ca­tion of a Jus­tice Depart­ment re­port about the de­struc­tion of more than 90 video­tapes show­ing the harsh in­ter­ro­ga­tion of one ter­ror sus­pect. No charges were filed as a re­sult of that re­port. Haspel drafted a cable that or­dered the tapes de­stroyed, but the cable was sent by her boss, Jose Ro­driguez, who has re­peat­edly taken re­spon­si­bil­ity for the order.

The in­ter­ro­ga­tion pro­gram be­came one of the dark­est chap­ters of the CIA’s his­tory and tainted Amer­ica’s im­age world­wide after the Sept. 11 at­tacks. Haspel has not dis­closed any de­tails of what she did in con­nec­tion with the pro­gram or say whether she thought it had been im­moral.

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.

“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.

Bol­ster­ing the com­ments she made dur­ing her hear­ing, Haspel wrote, “I do not sup­port use of en­hanced in­ter­ro­ga­tion tech­niques for any pur­pose.”

At­ten­tion now turns to the vote by the full Se­nate, which has yet to be sched­uled. Haspel has al­ready won the back­ing of sev­eral Democrats. They in­clude Mark Warner of Vir­ginia, Joe Manchin of West Vir­ginia, Joe Don­nel­ley of In­di­ana, Bill Nel­son of Florida and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota. The only Se­nate Repub­li­cans who are not ex­pected to vote for her are Ken­tucky’s Rand Paul and Ari­zona’s John McCain, who is battling can­cer and is not ex­pected to be present for the bal­lot.

Haspel’s op­po­nents, how­ever, con­tinue to weigh into the de­bate.

“Ms. Haspel is cyn­i­cally try­ing to of­fer mere words in an at­tempt to win votes to sup­port her con­fir­ma­tion,” said Gen. Charles Kru­lak, for­mer com­man­dant of the Marine Corps.

“The def­i­ni­tion of moral courage is do­ing the right thing at the right time for the right rea­sons when no one’s look­ing. Gina Haspel failed that test,” said Kru­lak, who or­ga­nized a let­ter signed by more than 100 re­tired gen­er­als and ad­mi­rals ex­press­ing con­cern over her nom­i­na­tion.

Daphne Evi­atar with Amnesty In­ter­na­tional on Tues­day called Haspel’s nom­i­na­tion an “af­front to hu­man rights.”

“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,” she said.

PABLO MARTINEZ MONSIVAIS - THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

In this May 9, 2018 photo, CIA nom­i­nee Gina Haspel tes­ti­fies dur­ing a con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing of the Se­nate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, on Capi­tol Hill in Wash­ing­ton. In a let­ter Tues­day to the top Demo­crat on the Se­nate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, Haspel says she would “refuse to un­der­take any pro­posed ac­tiv­ity that is con­trary to my moral and eth­i­cal val­ues.”

J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE - THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Se­nate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee Chair­man Richard Burr, R-N.C., goes be­hind closed doors as mem­bers of the Se­nate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee ar­rive to vote on Gina Haspel, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s pick to lead the Cen­tral In­tel­li­gence Agency, on Capi­tol Hill in Wash­ing­ton, Wed­nes­day, May 16, 2018.

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