Senators Not Impressed With Trump CIA Pick Linked To Torture

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Gina Haspel, current deputy director of the CIA, is being tapped by President Donald Trump to lead the spy agency. Her history with torture should trouble many.

UPDATE: Despite releasing documents which some say remove any doubts of impropriety surrounding her involvement in torture, there has been no movement in support of current Deputy CIA Director Gina Haspel’s nomination to lead that organization.

Democratic senators remain unconvinced that Haspel played no role in the destruction of video evidence of controversial torture techniques while she served in President George W. Bush's administration. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) is also unmoved with the recent release of a timeline by the current administration that’s meant to highlight her career.

“I don't think we should reward someone who is involved with torture and make them the head of the CIA,” Paul told a conservative news outlet last week.

The continued controversy surrounding Haspel means that her confirmation will be razor-thin, if possible at all. For her role in promoting torture during the early years of the so-called War on Terror, skepticism ought to be directed toward Haspel, given that the techniques violated international law. Were she to lead the CIA, there’s no question that she would continue those techniques if given the order from President Donald Trump.


President Donald Trump’s decision to remove Secretary of State Rex Tillerson from his cabinet position on Tuesday — through a tweet, no less — is shaking up Washington in a lot of ways, not the least of which is a major personnel shift.

Replacing Tillerson, according to Trump, will be current CIA Director Mike Pompeo. But that leaves another important vacancy — the head of America’s top spy agency. Who will take the reins of the CIA?

In the same tweet firing Tillerson and promoting Pompeo, Trump also named Gina Haspel, who is the deputy director at the CIA, to take Pompeo’s place, becoming the first woman to run the CIA since its inception in 1947.

Although it’s great that Trump is appointing a woman to an important post in his administration, naming Haspel to fill that role comes with grave concerns. Haspel played a large part in the dubious torture techniques that were used during the administration of former President George W. Bush — including using waterboarding on suspected terrorists at secret prisons in Thailand, The New York Times reported back in February.

These weren’t isolated incidents either; some suspects were subjected to the torture technique more than 100 times during their captivity.

Waterboarding is considered an illegal torture method under international law, a point that Bush administration officials wrongly said didn’t matter because they weren’t dealing with terror suspects who were representing a specified country.

Haspel’s appointment raises concerns about torture being used again. Although former President Barack Obama closed down secret prisons and outlawed torture methods like waterboarding in 2009, Trump has expressed a desire to bring both back.

Such practices, if indeed returning, would further stain the reputation of the United States, beyond the amount the Trump administration has already done. Additionally, torture methods like waterboarding simply do not work, according to those who know the most about their effectiveness.

Haspel still needs to get Senate confirmation before her appointment is made final. Lawmakers in that chamber of Congress ought to fully consider her nomination, including her troubling history with illegal interrogation techniques, before making a decision on whether she’s the right person for the role.

Banner/Thumbnail Credit: CIA/Handout via Reuters

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