WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump's CIA nominee appeared to be on a path toward confirmation as she picked up support from key Democrats on Tuesday and toughened her public stance against harsh interrogation.
“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,” Gina Haspel said in written answers to more than 60 questions released by the Senate intelligence committee.
Haspel, who was involved in supervising a secret CIA detention site in Thailand, wrote that she had learned “hard lessons since 9/11.” In comments aimed at clarifying her position on now-banned torture techniques, Haspel said that she would “refuse to undertake any proposed activity that is contrary to my moral and ethical values.”
“I do not support use of enhanced interrogation techniques for any purpose,” Haspel wrote.
The Senate intelligence committee is expected to vote today to recommend the full Senate confirm her.
Confirmation by the full Senate appeared likely as five Democrats – Mark Warner of Virginia, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Bill Nelson of Florida and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota – announced their support.
In announcing his support Tuesday, Warner, the top Democrat on the intelligence committee, said Haspel has been “professional and forthright” with the panel. “Most importantly, 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.”
Haspel testified at a Senate hearing that torture does not work as an interrogation technique and that, as director, her strong “moral compass” would ensure she did not carry out any administrative directive she found objectionable. Her written answers to questions went further to underscore her opposition to any attempt to reinstate harsh interrogation of suspects.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who was beaten as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War, has urged colleagues to reject the nominee over her past role in CIA interrogations. After the hearing, he issued a statement calling Haspel a patriot for her three decades of service to the CIA. Still, he said her role “in overseeing the use of torture by Americans is disturbing. Her refusal to acknowledge torture's immorality is disqualifying.”
Trump himself has said the country should consider resuming the use of harsh interrogation techniques. And former Vice President Dick Cheney, who was integral to the post-Sept. 11, 2001, strategy, said last week if it were up to him, “I'd do it again.”