- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Gina Haspel, President Trump’s nominee to lead the CIA, has promised the Senate Intelligence Committee that she “would never, ever take the CIA back” to interrogation techniques the agency once used but are now widely criticized as torture.

The CIA used those controversial tactics on terrorism suspects after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the U.S.

“I would not allow CIA to undertake activity that was immoral, even if it was technically legal. I would not permit it,” Ms. Haspel said. “I believe that CIA must undertake activities that are consistent with American values.”

Mark Warner, the committee’s top Democrat, began grilling Ms. Haspel on interrogation techniques right at the hearing’s start.

“What I am not willing to do, however, is to justify this dark period in our history, or to sweep away the decision to engage in torture,” he said in his prepared opening remarks.

The Virginian added, “We must now hear how you would react if the president asks you to carry out some morally questionable behavior that might seem to violate a law or treaty?”

For her long years of experience as a covert officer during some of the CIA’s most dangerous days chasing deadly, shadowy al Qaeda operatives around the world, Ms. Haspel has earned deep respect and a well of support from her peers across the intelligence community.

But that popularity and resume have not spared the agency’s current deputy director from a bruising confirmation fight where senators forced her to defend her role supervising one of the CIA’s secret prisons and her role in the subsequent destruction of interrogation tapes.

She engaged in a chippy back and forth with Mr. Warner as he dug for details into her work overseeing a CIA secret prison in Thailand in 2002 where harsh interrogations were conducted and videotaped. Ms. Haspel later destroyed those tapes under order of the CIA’s clandestine chief, Jose Rodriguez.

Ms. Haspel defended the decision because CIA officers were seen on the videos.

Committee Chairman Sen. Richard Burr, who has declared his support of Ms. Haspel, praised her work and courage — calling her the “most prepared person to lead the CIA in its 70-year history.”

The North Carolinian also pushed back on the idea that the hearing need to be a re-trial on post-9/11 CIA tactics.

“Some may seek to turn this hearing into a trial about a long-shuttered program,” he said. “This hearing is not about programs already addressed by executive order, legislation, and the court of law. It’s about the woman seated in front of us.”

Emotions bubbled over during the hearing, with anti-torture protesters briefly disrupting the proceedings with chants and shouting before being escorted out.

Since her nomination, the CIA has declassified details form Ms. Haspel’s lengthy undercover career.

During the hearing, she added personality to the background with a touch of poetry and humor, describing herself as someone who had no social media account — “but otherwise you would find me to be a typical, middle-class American.”

Ms. Haspel also addressed her evolution from an Air Force “brat” from Kentucky to one who navigated the complex world of intelligence gathering as a woman. An early mission, she said, occurred on a “dark, moonless night.”

“From my first days in training, I had a knack for the nuts and bolts of my profession,” she said. “I excelled in finding and acquiring secret information that I obtained in brush passes, dead drops, or in meetings in dusty alleys of third world capitals.”

After the Senate panel votes on her nomination, the full Senate will then consider Ms. Haspel, who would be the agency’s first female director if confirmed. Her confirmation vote, however, is seen as toss-up given the Senate’s tight 51-49 party split.

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