Haspel Says CIA Should Not Have Used Harsh Interrogation Program

REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

Will Racke Immigration and Foreign Policy Reporter
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President Donald Trump’s pick to be the next CIA director says the agency should never have conducted its enhanced interrogation program, telling a Democratic lawmaker that it “ultimately did damage” to U.S. standing in the world.

In a letter sent Monday to Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, Haspel wrote that the program, which included waterboarding and other harsh physical punishments, “is not one the CIA should have undertaken.”

“While I won’t condemn those that made these hard calls, and I have noted the valuable intelligence collected, the program ultimately did damage to our officers and our standing in the world,” Haspel wrote in the letter, which was first obtained by CNN.

Haspel is facing a tough confirmation battle due to her involvement in the George W. Bush administration’s interrogation program, which many say constituted illegal torture of detainees. Lawmakers have pressed Haspel for more details about her supervision of a CIA black site in Thailand where detainees faced harsh interrogations, and she has also been questioned about her role in the destruction of CIA interrogation tapes in 2005.

Haspel’s letter to Warner, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, goes a step further than remarks she made during her contentious public confirmation hearing last week. At the hearing, Haspel said she would not allow the CIA to resume the George W. Bush-era program, but she stopped short of disavowing it completely, saying only that she supported the “stricter moral standard” that is now the law.

The Senate Intelligence Committee is set to vote on Haspel’s nomination on Wednesday. Her letter appears to be an effort to assuage Warner, who is still undecided on her nomination. (RELATED: Five Takeaways From The Haspel Hearing)

Even without Warner’s support, Haspel is likely to come out of the committee vote with a favorable result. No Republicans on the committee have expressed opposition to Haspel’s nomination, and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia has publicly backed her bid.

The Wednesday committee vote would likely set up a final vote in the full Senate next week. Two Republican senators — Rand Paul of Kentucky and John McCain of Arizona — have said they will oppose Haspel’s confirmation, but they are offset by Manchin and Joe Donnelly of Indiana — Democrats facing re-election in states that Trump won in 2016.

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