The Se­nate

Nom­i­nee to lead CIA ap­pears to have the votes for con­fir­ma­tion

The Washington Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY KAROUN DEMIRJIAN karoun.demirjian@wash­ Shane Har­ris contributed to this re­port.

In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee moved to rec­om­mend Gina Haspel for CIA di­rec­tor.

The Se­nate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee moved Wed­nes­day to rec­om­mend Gina Haspel for CIA di­rec­tor, set­ting up a floor vote that her op­po­nents say will sig­nal to the world whether the United States con­demns or con­dones tor­ture.

The com­mit­tee voted 10 to 5 in fa­vor of her nom­i­na­tion.

In a state­ment an­nounc­ing the out­come, Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), the panel’s chair­man, called Haspel “the most qual­i­fied per­son” Pres­i­dent Trump could have cho­sen for the Cab­i­net post. “She has acted morally, eth­i­cally, and legally, over a dis­tin­guished 30-year ca­reer,” he said, “and is the right per­son to lead the Agency into an uncer­tain and chal­leng­ing future.”

With only three of 51 Repub­li­cans com­mit­ted to vot­ing against Haspel and six Democrats in­di­cat­ing that they will sup­port her, she ap­pears set to be­come the agency’s first fe­male di­rec­tor. The full Se­nate is ex­pected to vote on her con­fir­ma­tion in com­ing weeks.

Haspel’s 33-year record at the CIA in­ter­sected with the agency’s “en­hanced in­ter­ro­ga­tion” pro­gram, in which, after the 9/11 at­tacks on the United States, agents sub­jected cer­tain de­tainees to pro­ce­dures sub­se­quently con­demned as tor­ture. Al­though Haspel promised dur­ing her con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing never to re­vive the pro­gram, she was far less res­o­lute about con­demn­ing the tech­niques as im­moral.

It was Haspel’s re­luc­tance to say that the CIA’s in­ter­ro­ga­tion pro­gram was, in ret­ro­spect, morally wrong that sparked the Se­nate’s au­thor­i­ties on tor­ture — namely Sens. John McCain (RAriz.), who en­dured years of it as a pris­oner of war in Viet­nam, and Dianne Fe­in­stein (D-Calif.), who wrote the Se­nate’s defini­tive re­port on the CIA’s prac­tices — to de­clare Haspel un­con­firmable.

It has been al­most three years since McCain led the charge in Congress to cur­tail the in­ter­ro­ga­tion tech­niques, push­ing leg­is­la­tion to make the Army Field Man­u­als’ code of con­duct the gov­ern­ment stan­dard. The Se­nate adopted that rule change in 2015 as part of the an­nual de­fense au­tho­riza­tion bill by a vote of 78 to 21.

Much of the con­cern about Haspel’s nom­i­na­tion has cen­tered on cam­paign state­ments made by Trump, who ex­pressed an ea­ger­ness to re­in­state cer­tain out­lawed prac­tices, in­clud­ing wa­ter­board­ing.

Haspel said dur­ing her con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing that she would dis­obey any order from Trump to re­vive such tech­niques. But she also claimed to have a close re­la­tion­ship with the pres­i­dent, which dis­com­fited those al­ready un­easy about her record.

The con­tro­ver­sial episodes in Haspel’s ca­reer in­clude a stint over­see­ing a se­cret prison in Thai­land where bru­tal in­ter­ro­ga­tions were con­ducted and her role draft­ing a cable in 2005 that or­dered the de­struc­tion of 92 video­tapes de­pict­ing the in­ter­ro­ga­tion of one de­tainee. Many also have crit­i­cized her for not de­clas­si­fy­ing more doc­u­ments re­lated to her mostly clan­des­tine CIA ca­reer.

McCain’s warn­ing res­onated with sev­eral crit­ics of the pres­i­dent, in­clud­ing Jeff Flake, his fel­low Repub­li­can sen­a­tor from Ari­zona, who an­nounced Wed­nes­day even­ing that he would op­pose Haspel’s nom­i­na­tion.

But Haspel re­ceived a vi­tal en­dorse­ment this week from Sen. Mark R. Warner ( Va.), the In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee’s rank­ing Demo­crat. He said Haspel had been “more forth­com­ing” in pri­vate meet­ings in which he gave her a sec­ond chance to say more clearly and in writ­ing that “the en­hanced in­ter­ro­ga­tion pro­gram is not one the CIA should have un­der­taken” and that “the United States must be an ex­am­ple to the rest of the world.”

In a state­ment re­leased after Wed­nes­day’s vote, Warner said Haspel would be a strong ad­vo­cate for the CIA’s work­force “and an in­de­pen­dent voice who can and will stand up on be­half of our na­tion’s in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity.”

“Most im­por­tantly,” Warner said, “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.”

In writ­ten an­swers to the com­mit­tee’s ques­tions and in a sep­a­rate let­ter to Warner, Haspel stopped short of con­demn­ing the agency of­fi­cials who “made th­ese hard calls” and praised the “valu­able in­tel­li­gence col­lected” through the pro­gram — de­spite the Se­nate’s de­ter­mi­na­tion that the in­ter­ro­ga­tions were not a vi­able means of gain­ing in­for­ma­tion.

But for Warner, and for the Democrats who fol­lowed his lead to an­nounce their sup­port for Haspel on Tues­day, it was enough.

“Ms. Haspel’s in­volve­ment in tor­ture is deeply trou­bling, as my friend and col­league, John McCain, so elo­quently re­minded us. How­ever, Ms. Haspel ex­plained to me that the agency should not have em­ployed such tac­tics in the past and has as­sured me that it will not do so in the future,” Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) wrote, adding that she “trust[ed] her word.”

Heitkamp is one of sev­eral sen­a­tors con­tacted by for­mer CIA chiefs work­ing to sup­port Haspel’s nom­i­na­tion. For­mer CIA di­rec­tor John Bren­nan con­tacted her, Warner, and Sens. Joe Don­nelly (D-Ind.) and Jeanne Sha­heen (D-N.H.) to urge them to vote for Haspel. All four have de­clared their sup­port; Sha­heen an­nounced her de­ci­sion Wed­nes­day even­ing. Sim­i­larly, for­mer CIA di­rec­tor Leon E. Panetta made a per­sonal ap­peal to Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), who de­clared his sup­port last week. An­other Demo­crat, Sen. Bill Nel­son (Fla.), an­nounced Tues­day he would vote for Haspel.

The Democrats who have elected to vote for Haspel have cited the con­fi­dence she has in the agency’s rank and file and the broader in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity.

“Ms. Haspel ex­plained to me that the agency should not have em­ployed such tac­tics in the past and has as­sured me that it will not do so in the future.” Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, on the CIA’s use of tor­ture


Gina Haspel, seen dur­ing her Se­nate con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing, would be the CIA’s first fe­male di­rec­tor. Six Democrats have pledged sup­port for Haspel, mak­ing her con­fir­ma­tion likely in the com­ing weeks.

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