McCain Questions Trump's CIA Director Nominee on Ties to Torture

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Posted: Mar 23, 2018 1:45 PM
McCain Questions Trump's CIA Director Nominee on Ties to Torture

Sen. John McCain (R- AZ) sent a letter to the Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and President Trump’s nominee to be CIA Director, Gina Haspel, asking her to explain her position on torture and her ties with programs that used “enhanced interrogation techniques” during her time with the CIA.

McCain, who experienced torture as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, asked Haspel for “a detailed account of your role in the CIA’s detention and interrogation program between 2001 and 2009, including while you were deployed abroad at so-called ‘black sites’ or other locations where detainees were held in U.S. custody and subjected to “enhanced interrogation techniques.”

“Over the course of your career with the intelligence community, you have served in positions of responsibility that have intersected with the CIA’s program of so-called ‘enhanced interrogation techniques,’” he wrote. 

“These techniques included the practice of waterboarding, forced nudity and humiliation, facial and abdominal slapping, dietary manipulation, stress positions, cramped confinement, striking, and more than 48 hours of sleep deprivation,” McCain continued. “We now know that these techniques not only failed to deliver actionable intelligence, but actually produced false and misleading information.”

He also asked her to clarify if she was involved in the destruction of tapes “or any other material containing potential evidence of the torture of, or the use of ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ on, detainees in the custody or under the effective control of the CIA.”

Haspel's confirmation hearing should be interesting, as the Senate is poised to ask about her role at a "black site" in Thailand and in the destruction of tapes documenting torture of detainees.

The CIA provided a two-page bio of Haspel to Congress on Thursday to give them a fuller picture of her background.

Last week, multiple news outlets, including ProPublica and the Associated Press, had to retract a report that Haspel was chief of a "black site" in Thailand when suspected al-Qaida detainee Abu Zubaydah was interrogated by waterboarding. Haspel did not run the site until after Zubaydah was transferred. Her critics still claim that other prisoners were interrogated using questionable tactics at the site while she ran it.

Former CIA director David Petraeus praised Haspel on Thursday and said that she would explain to the Senate her involvement in “enhanced interrogation techniques."

“She’s very capable, very bright, very personable, very good leader, all kinds of superlatives there,” he said. “Very highly regarded, but as you know, obviously, she’s associated with some activities that now, to put a point on it, are illegal.”

Petraeus added that Haspel will discuss her participation in such techniques and noted that “in the post 9/11 period, there was a sense of a ticking time bomb that people do need to remember.”

 “My sense is an understanding that she is going to explain in her opening statement she gets it that this is now illegal and she would therefore never countenance it, and explain perhaps the context at the time,” he said.