CIA Nominee Gina Haspel Condemns Bush-era Interrogation Methods, Clears Path to Senate Approval

WASHINGTON -- The path to confirmation as CIA director cleared Tuesday for Gina Haspel after she explicitly condemned the brutal Bush-era interrogation methods used on terror suspects.Haspel had assured senators last week at her confirmation hearing that in hindsight, methods such as waterboarding -- viewed as torture by critics -- harmed America's image in the world, and she would not restart the program.That wasn't good enough for some senators, given her central role in the program. President George W. Bush, with encouragement from Vice President Dick Cheney and other advisers, and with the blessing of top government lawyers, ordered "enhanced interrogation" to pry secrets from Al Qaeda operatives and others after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.In a letter to Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Haspel said outright that CIA should not have used such methods, even if they were deemed legal."Over the last 17 years, the Agency and I have learned the hard lessons since 9/11. 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," she wrote. "With the benefit of hindsight and my experience as a senior Agency leader, the enhanced interrogation program is not one the CIA should have undertaken."That went much further than Haspel had gone last week at her public confirmation hearing.Warner released the letter and on Tuesday afternoon, announced that in light of her assurances, he will support her nomination. That signaled almost certain confirmation, with most Republicans already on board."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," Warner said in a statement announcing his support.Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the deputy majority leader and a member of the intelligence panel, defended the Bush-era program and Haspel's involvement."They were asked to implement it in order to prevent a follow-on attack, even in the midst of reports that al Qaeda was trying to get a nuclear device. And we did what we had to do in order to protect the country in accordance with the legal advice that we got from the Department of Justice," he said shortly before Warner announced his support. "I don't fault her anymore than I would fault [former CIA director John] Brennan or anyone else who did their job in good faith."  Continue reading...

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