After presenting herself as “a typical middle-class American” who was brought up with a strong “moral compass” in her opening remarks before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday, Gina Haspel—President Donald Trump’s pick to head the CIA—would not admit that the agency has ever tortured nor would she say that she believes torture is immoral.
Asked repeatedly by Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) to provide a “yes or no” answer to whether the CIA’s torture techniques used in the aftermath of 9/11 were immoral, Haspel repeatedly dodged and at one point strongly endorsed the tactics she reportedly oversaw as an a CIA official, saying the agency “did extraordinary work to prevent another attack on this country.”
Haspel went on to say that while she doesn’t believe “torture works” as Trump has suggested, she does think the CIA’s “program” elicited “valuable information” from detainees.
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While the CIA and its many apologists have long attempted to deny or sow confusion over whether certain forms of the agency’s abuse constituted torture, legal and human rights experts have been crystal clear that “torture is torture, and waterboarding is not an exception.”
Though President Obama once acknowledged how the U.S. “tortured some folks,” throughout her prepared statement and during questioning, Haspel repeatedly referred to the CIA as having a “detention and interrogation program” in which she played a pivotal role. However, she avoided at every opportunity use of the word “torture” and never once admitted that the agency “tortured” anybody.
Responding to Senate hearing on Twitter, The Intercept‘s Jeremy Scahill denounced Haspel’s answers to even the most mild and poorly framed questions raised by lawmakers.
“Even through the most mainstream bullshit prism of Senate politics, Haspel’s answers were a disgrace,” Scahill wrote. “Any Democrat that votes to confirm Haspel should never be allowed to live it down.”
After the two-and-a-half hour hearing was finally brought to a close, Scahill concluded, “My god, that was horrid.”
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