Trump’s CIA pick will pledge to end detention and waterboarding programs
WASHINGTON – President Trump’s nominee for CIA director pledged Wednesday to never restart terrorist detention and waterboarding programs that the agency used after the 9/11 attacks.
Under fire for overseeing a covert CIA Thailand prison that waterboarded terror suspects, Gina Haspel offered assurances at her Senate confirmation hearing that she’s learned lessons from the past.
“Having served in that tumultuous time, I can offer you my personal commitment, clearly and without reservation, that under my leadership, CIA will not restart such a detention and interrogation program,” Haspel said in her appearance before the Intelligence Committee.
She said it was clear the CIA “was not prepared to conduct a detention and interrogation program.”
But today, she said, the government has a legal and policy framework to handle those measures.
”I fully support the standards for detainee treatment required by law, and just as importantly, I will keep CIA focused on our collection and analysis missions that can best leverage the expertise found at the agency,” she said.
Haspel said the hearing was an opportunity to introduce herself to the “American people.”
”I don’t have any social media accounts, but otherwise I think you will find me to be a typical middle class American – one with a strong sense of right and wrong and one who loves this country,” she said.
The 33-year veteran of the spy agency said she was “humbled by their confidence” that can lead the CIA and vowed to work hard to maintain that “mutual trust.”
”They know that I don’t need time to learn the business of what CIA does,” she said. “I know CIA like the back of my hand. I know them, I know the threats we face, and I know what we need to be successful in our mission.”
Haspel faces an uphill climb to become the first female CIA director because many senators – largely Democrats – don’t want to promote someone who participated in what they call a torture program that left a dark stain on American history.
Haspel’s commitment not to restart any enhanced interrogation techniques puts her at odds with Trump, who campaigned on bringing back waterboarding or even harsher techniques.
“We should go for waterboarding and we should go tougher than waterboarding,” Trump said in 2016.
The White House and CIA have launched a vigorous defense of Haspel after she reportedly got cold feet Friday and offered to withdraw her nomination over concerns the torture debate would sully her agency’s reputation.
“My highly respected nominee for CIA Director, Gina Haspel, has come under fire because she was too tough on Terrorists,” Trump tweeted on Monday.
“Think of that, in these very dangerous times, we have the most qualified person, a woman, who Democrats want OUT because she is too tough on terror. Win Gina!” he added.
For her part, Haspel plans to put more intelligence officers in the field abroad, promote foreign language proficiency and highlight female recruitment.
“It is not my way to trumpet the fact that I am a woman up for the top job,” Haspel told the senators, “but I would be remiss in not remarking on it — not least because of the outpouring of support from young women at CIA who consider it a good sign for their own prospects.”