Five Democrats helped the GOP-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee approve President Donald Trump’s nominee for CIA director, Gina Haspel, for a full Senate vote.
Haspel was involved in the illegal torture of detainees in 2002, during the Bush administration, and oversaw in the destruction of video evidence of the torture, which took place at a CIA “black site” in Thailand.
Haspel refused to say torture was “immoral” during her Senate hearing, but gained the support of Democratic Sens. Mark Warner of Virginia, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Bill Nelson of Florida and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, notes New York Magazine.
Haspel sent Warner a May 15 letter in which she refused to condemn the torture that she took part in (which was banned by President Reagan in 1984):
While I won’t condemn those that [made] these hard calls, and I have noted the valuable intelligence collected, the program ultimately did damage to our officers and our standing in the world. With the benefit of hindsight and my experience as a senior agency leader, the enhanced interrogation program is not one the C.I.A. should have undertaken.
Ryan Grim of The Intercept told Democracy Now how the CIA (under the control of Haspel as acting director) campaigned for Haspel, and how Republicans denied senators access to a 23-page memo about Haspel’s dark history at the CIA:
Well, this was an extraordinary situation where the person who is up for confirmation also is the acting director of the CIA, and therefore is in control of what gets declassified, and so what the public can review about her record.
And senators pushed back on the CIA and said, “Let’s at least have Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, make the decision on what can be classified or declassified.” And the CIA rejected that. The CIA was engaged in an aggressive public relations campaign to get Haspel confirmed.
So, what the minority staff, the Democratic staff, on the Intelligence Committee did is, drawing on the classified information that they have access to, they put together roughly a 23-page memo that outlined her role in running the black site and overseeing and advocating for torture, and her central role in destroying the evidence around that torture.
And they tried to keep it compact, because senators are not known for sitting and reading long reports. You know, Trump gets made fun of for wanting everything to be one page, but there aren’t many senators who want more than that.
But the problem was, it’s classified. And so, the solution that they had previously was that it was in the basement in this room—it’s a Senate security room—and so you, as a senator, and a staffer could go down and review it.
As it got closer to the vote on Wednesday, the document was pulled, and staff were restricted from seeing it. At that point, only a senator, without the benefit of their staff, could view it, but they had to—they had to request access to it. Under pressure, that was reversed, and some staff were allowed to see it again.