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Mark Warner Let Gina Haspel Off The Hook For Overlaying Up Torture

On the finish of Gina Haspel’s affirmation listening to final week, Sen. Mark Warner, the rating Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee, warned the CIA director nominee that she wanted to present People extra confidence that she wouldn’t resume the company’s torture program.

“You have to not only earn our trust,” Warner stated, noting that the members of the committee have better entry to her work historical past. “You also have to earn the trust of the American public,” he stated.

The senator identified that solely constructive supplies about her report have been declassified.

In 2002, Haspel oversaw the torture of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the accused mastermind of the bombing of the usCole. She additionally performed a key function in efforts to destroy videotapes of the torture of al-Nashiri and one other detainee ― efforts that started in 2002 and ended with the movies’ destruction in 2005, simply as Congress moved to conduct an inquiry into that CIA program. But Haspel has refused to publicly affirm her function in al-Nashiri’s torture whereas discovering a solution to launch details about assembly the late Mom Teresa.

Warner expressed remorse that every of the numerous occasions Haspel had been requested to disavow the torture program throughout her affirmation listening to, she had dodged the query.

“As you try to gain our trust … having clarity on these issues and having clarity on what your appointment will represent and what values you will bring to this critically important job at this moment in time is extraordinarily important,” he stated.

Warner steered that if solely Haspel would condemn the torture program in clearer phrases, as John Brennan had throughout his affirmation listening to to change into CIA director in 2013, then she’d have Warner’s vote. However he stated nothing in his closing assertion concerning the destruction of the torture tapes.

Because the listening to adjourned shortly after Warner’s remarks and others left the dais, he and the committee’s Republican chairman, Sen. Richard Burr, stayed there, heads bowed shut, smiles on their faces.

He demolished any belief the general public might need within the intelligence committee’s means to offer actual oversight of the CIA.

Having not obtained a transparent reply whereas the tv cameras had been on, Warner requested Haspel once more in written follow-up questions what she considered torture.

“With the benefit of nearly 20 years of hindsight, and from your perspective as the nominee to be Director of the CIA, do you believe the Agency’s use of ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ was consistent with American values? … If the President orders you to carry out some morally questionable program, for example, but [the Justice Department] writes an opinion noting the legality of the morally questionable actions, what will you do?” Warner requested.

“I would refuse to undertake any activity that is contrary to my moral and ethical values,” replied the nominee who had repeatedly refused to say torture was immoral within the public listening to. 

Haspel additionally wrote that she wouldn’t condemn the “hard calls” that led the CIA to run a torture program for at the least 5 years. She famous the injury the torture program did to the officers who carried out it and to U.S. standing on this planet, however she talked about nothing about the way it led the CIA to chase down false leads and turned the army fee making an attempt the perpetrators of 9/11 right into a kangaroo courtroom.

Haspel wrote nothing ― and Warner once more stated nothing ― about her function in masking up the torture program and destroying the videotapes exhibiting torture even after two members of Congress, then-Rep. Jane Harman and then-Sen. Carl Levin, had expressed curiosity in finding out what had actually occurred. As a substitute, Haspel wrote that it was a mistake to not “brief the entire committee at the beginning,” suggesting that if solely the total intelligence committees had been briefed, they’d have provided consensus help for torture.

In brief, Haspel prevaricated once more ― in response to a query that Warner had clearly posed to present her one other probability to earn the general public’s confidence. She once more stopped wanting declaring this system immoral and even steered that members of Congress would have authorized of waterboarding, anal feeding and excessive sleep deprivation if solely they’d been briefed on it.

Nonetheless, having obtained yet one more halfhearted disavowal, Warner responded by backing Haspel. In asserting that he would vote to substantiate her nomination, Warner pointed to the written solutions, claiming they memorialized Haspel’s extra “forthcoming” views on the torture program, even whereas he repeated that he wished “she had been more open with the American public during this process.” With Warner offering cowl, fellow Democratic senators Heidi Heitkamp and Invoice Nelson shortly adopted, basically making certain that Haspel would change into CIA director.

Amid all his discuss of belief, nevertheless, Warner didn’t safe any assertion ample to persuade any however probably the most credulous critics that Haspel would stand as much as any egregious requests that President Donald Trump would possibly ask of the CIA. Extra broadly, he demolished any belief the general public might need within the intelligence committee’s means to offer actual oversight of the CIA.


Considerably, Warner didn’t again the decision to launch a labeled report that Justice Division prosecutor John Durham accomplished on the destruction of the torture tapes in 2011. Whereas Durham discovered there was not sufficient proof to press fees towards Haspel and her boss, Jose Rodriguez, public reviews on his inquiry counsel that Haspel and Rodriguez short-circuited a assessment course of that will not have authorized the destruction. The truth is, Haspel’s claims (in each the listening to and her follow-up solutions) that torture didn’t seem on these tapes counsel that maybe somebody on the black website she ran had made the tapes unreadable in 2002. Even whereas Warner criticized Haspel’s personal double customary on what can and can’t be saved secret, he engaged in the identical sort of selective secrecy.

What’s worse, Warner reportedly undercut an effort to counteract Haspel’s lack of transparency. When Democratic committee staffers created a labeled doc offering particulars of Haspel’s report to be made accessible to your entire Senate ― the sort of transparency permitted earlier than previous votes involving labeled data ― a senior aide to Warner moved to additional prohibit entry to the doc.

As Warner himself steered in his public feedback, members of Congress and the general public have to believe in somebody holding a submit as highly effective as CIA director. But when the stress got here, Warner selected to make sure that nothing that will actually jeopardize Haspel’s affirmation turned public.

Now, somebody who oversaw torture and lined it up is all however sure to be confirmed as CIA director. When she is, it will likely be because of Mark Warner participating in his personal cover-up.

Marcy Wheeler is an unbiased journalist writing about nationwide safety and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous weblog and is the writer of Anatomy of Deceit. Comply with her on Twitter at @emptywheel.

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