Republican Senator John McCain on Tuesday blasted President Donald Trump’s decision to nominate Gina Haspel to become the director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), saying she was involved in “one of darkest chapters in American history.”
Trump announced Tuesday that he had chosen Haspel to run the agency while her boss, Mike Pompeo, replaces Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Haspel’s legacy is marked by her time in charge of one of the CIA’s most controversial programs to boot ― the torture of terror suspects in the early fight against al Qaeda.
Working as a clandestine officer in Thailand in 2002, Haspel reportedly was involved in the interrogations of two suspects, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, several news outlets reported last year. The methods used against the men included waterboarding Abu Zubaydah 83 times in one month, to the point where doctors once had to revive him, and ramming his head into walls. He lost sight in one eye.
The torture sessions were videotaped, and Haspel also allegedly played a part in the tapes’ destruction in 2005, the American Civil Liberties Union said.
Progressive foreign policy groups are fighting back against her nomination, saying her direct role in the torture program should “disqualify her” from the position.
Sen. McCain agrees.
While he expressed confidence in current CIA Director Mike Pompeo’s ability to serve as secretary of State, McCain said in a statement that Haspel needs to explain her stance on torture.
“The torture of detainees in U.S. custody during the last decade was one of the darkest chapters in American history,” McCain said Tuesday. “Ms. Haspel needs to explain the nature and extent of her involvement in the CIA’s interrogation program during the confirmation process.”
Following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the Bush administration “squandered precious moral authority” to get intelligence, the Arizona Senator said.
“Any nominee for director of the CIA must pledge without reservation to uphold this prohibition, which has helped us regain our position of leadership in the struggle for universal human rights,” McCain said.
McCain, who was tortured as a prisoner during in the Vietnam War, has sharply criticized Trump’s support of controversial interrogation policies like waterboarding.
“I know from personal experience that the abuse of prisoners will produce more bad than good,” McCain said.