McCain wants Trump CIA nominee to explain 'enhanced interrogation' ties

Matt Saintsing
March 23, 2018 - 3:17 pm

Jack Gruber-USA TODAY

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who spent more than five years enduring torture as a Prisoner of war in Vietnam, called on President Donald Trump’s nominee to be CIA director, Gina Haspel, for more information about her participation in the agency’s use of now-illegal interrogation techniques.

Haspel, who has spent more than 30 years with the agency, has been tied to the use of “enhanced interrogation” techniques used on individuals suspected of terrorism in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. In the past, she was chief of a CIA “black site” prison where such techniques, also referred to as torture, were used.

Haspel is also part of a small CIA cohort that destroyed videotape evidence of some of the interrogations.

McCain, a moral authority on the subject of intense interrogations, on Friday sent a letter to Haspel asking for “a detailed account” of her role in overseeing CIA interrogations between 2001 and 2009, both in the U.S. and abroad. He also called on her declassify a report on torture that the Senate Intelligence Committee finished in 2014.

California Democrat Sen. Diane Feinstein, who wrote the 2014 report, has praised Haspel’s positive reputation at CIA, but said in a statement “her experience may have served her well as deputy, but the top position is another matter entirely.”

“Do you believe actions like these were justified, and do you believe they produced actionable intelligence?” McCain asked Haspel in his letter.

Congress outlawed enhanced interrogation techniques, such as waterboarding, in 2015. McCain and Feinstein introduced the amendment which became permanent in a 2009 executive order signed by President Obama that limits CIA interrogation sessions to those used by the U.S. Army.

McCain released a statement along with his letter Friday, that appeared to have answered his own question. ““We now know that these techniques not only failed to deliver actionable intelligence, but actually produced false and misleading information,” said McCain.

“Most importantly, the use of torture compromised our values, stained our national honor, and threatened our historical reputation.”

McCain is joined by a growing chorus of individuals who have called on Haspel to explain her involvement in the CIA’s enhanced interrogation program.

Speaking at a Veterans in Global Leadership event Thursday night, former CIA Director David Petraeus said Haspel is “Very highly regarded, but as you know, obviously, she’s associated with some activities that now, to put a point on it, are illegal.”

Petraeus said Haspel will most likely address these issues during her nomination hearing, which is scheduled for next month.

“My sense is an understanding that she is going to explain in her opening statement she gets it that this is now illegal and she would therefore never countenance it, and explain perhaps the context at the time,” said Petraeus.

Petraeus said he does not support enhanced interrogation, and didn’t before it was made illegal, but stressed decisions made must be viewed in historical context. “In the post 9/11 period, there was a sense of a ticking time bomb that people need to remember,” he said.