After months of accusing President Donald Trump and his cohorts of alleged obstruction of justice in the Robert Mueller investigation into Russian collusion, Democratic Sen. Mark Warner announced Tuesday that he is supporting Gina Haspel’s nomination for CIA director. Although no CIA officials were criminally charged, Haspel participated in a conspiracy to destroy videotaped evidence of “enhanced interrogations.”
On Tuesday, Warner issued the following press release: “Over the last year I’ve had the opportunity to work with Ms. Haspel in her role as Deputy Director, and I have always found her to be professional and forthright with the Intelligence Committee. 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.”
That is clearly false.
During Haspel’s confirmation hearing last week, senators questioned her role in operating a CIA “black site” that tortured at least two prisoners and her participation in ordering the destruction of 92 videotapes depicting hundreds of hours of waterboarding. When asked by Sen. Susan Collins whether Haspel would hypothetically follow the president’s orders to conduct enhanced interrogation on a suspected terrorist, Haspel replied, “Senator, I would advise – I do not believe the president would ask me to do that.”
Trump has publicly stated that he does not consider waterboarding to be torture, believes that waterboarding works, and wants to expand the enhanced interrogation program. During the presidential campaign, he also called for the U.S. military to murder the families of terrorists.
So, as vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Warner is either an incompetent idiot or blatantly lying to the American people.
“I acknowledge that this has been a difficult decision. There are valid questions that have been raised regarding the Acting Director’s record, and I have been frank with Ms. Haspel that I wish she had been more open with the American public during this process. However, in both our one-on-one meetings and in classified session before the Committee, I found Acting Director Haspel to be more forthcoming regarding her views on the interrogation program, which is why I asked her to memorialize those comments in writing. I also take to heart the strong support Ms. Haspel has among rank-and-file members of the intelligence community and from intelligence community leaders who served under President Obama.”
In a letter sent to Warner on Monday, Haspel wrote, “As I stated to the Committee, it was a mistake not to brief the entire Committee at the beginning. Both the Committee and the Agency shared the goal of obtaining the critical intelligence needed to thwart another attack. CIA need to have consensus from members of the oversight committees who make decisions on behalf of the American people as their elected representatives on activities that can’t be made public.”
In her own words, Haspel considers rendition and torture as “activities that can’t be made public.” But according to the U.S. Constitution, rendition and torture are considered “cruel and unusual punishment” by both the U.S. government and the American people.
And according to the executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture, enhanced interrogation does not produce viable intelligence. In other words, torture doesn’t work because the victims often provided false information in order to make the abuse stop.
“I’m going to support Gina Haspel’s nomination to be Director of the CIA,” Warner concluded. “I also respect my colleagues who have made a different decision.
“If she is confirmed, the Senate Intelligence Committee will continue to conduct thorough and vigorous oversight over the nation’s intelligence agencies.”
Thorough and vigorous oversight?
Like the kind of “thorough and vigorous oversight” provided by the Rockefeller Commission, Church Committee, Nedzi Committee, and Pike Committee?
During the 1970s, the CIA was caught conducting domestic spying on U.S. citizens, assassinating democratically-elected leaders, and committing torture. When testifying before the Church Committee, former chief of counterintelligence James Angleton admitted to illegally opening and reading U.S. mail.
More than 40 years later, the CIA continues to routinely violate the U.S. Constitution with impunity. Expecting a modicum of honesty or integrity from Haspel would require a titanic suspension of disbelief.
Besides Warner, Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin, Joe Donnelly, and Heidi Heitkamp have announced their support for Haspel’s nomination. Last week, Republican Sen. John McCain refused to support her nomination due to her involvement in the CIA’s torture program.