Fri, May 11, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Nominee to head CIA says torture is not an effective tool, would resist bad orders

AP, WASHINGTON

US President Donald Trump’s nominee to head the CIA on Wednesday said at her confirmation hearing that she does not believe torture works as an interrogation technique and that her “strong moral compass” would prevent her from carrying out any presidential order she found objectionable.

Under questioning by members of the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Acting CIA Director Gina Haspel said she would not permit the spy agency to restart the kind of harsh detention and interrogation program it ran at black sites after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

US senators asked how she would respond if Trump — who has said he supports harsh interrogation techniques such as waterboarding and “a hell of a lot worse” — ordered her to do something she found morally objectionable.

“I would not allow CIA to undertake activity that I thought was immoral, even if it was technically legal,” said Haspel, a 33-year veteran of the agency. “I would absolutely not permit it.”

Asked if she agrees with the president’s assertion that torture works, Haspel said: “I don’t believe that torture works.”

She added that she does not think Trump would ask the CIA to resume waterboarding, which simulates drowning.

Haspel, vying to become the first female CIA director, faces what will likely be a close confirmation vote in the full Senate.

While she has deep experience, her nomination is contentious because she was chief of base of a covert detention site in Thailand where terror suspects were waterboarded.

There have also been questions about how she drafted a cable that her boss used to order the destruction of videotapes of interrogation sessions conducted at the site.

After the hearing, Republican Senator John McCain, a leading voice against harsh interrogation, issued a statement urging his colleagues to vote against Haspel’s confirmation.

“I believe Gina Haspel is a patriot who loves our country and has devoted her professional life to its service and defense,” said McCain, who was detained and beaten in prison during the Vietnam War. “However, Ms Haspel’s role in overseeing the use of torture by Americans is disturbing. Her refusal to acknowledge torture’s immorality is disqualifying.”

He is at home in Arizona while battling brain cancer and is not expected to be able to vote.

While it was unclear what effect McCain’s stance would have on Haspel’s confirmation, his views carry clout as a voice of principle from the only senator now serving who has been held captive during wartime.

Protesters disrupted the hearing, shouting: “Prosecute the torturers” and “Bloody Gina.”

Haspel remained stone-faced as police escorted them out of the room.

Being in the public spotlight is new for Haspel. She spent more than 30 years working undercover, acquiring secret information from dead drops and at meetings in dusty back alleys of third-world capitals.

Still, the 61-year-old intelligence professional portrayed herself as a “typical middle-class American” with a “strong sense of right and wrong.”

While the CIA director technically reports to the director of national intelligence, Haspel would be the face of the nation’s top spy agency and a top Trump adviser.

She has received strong backing from former top intelligence officials and most Republicans.

Democratic Senator Joe Manchin also announced his support on Wednesday.

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