Gina Haspel, President Donald Trump’s nominee to head the Central Intelligence Agency, faced a clear test when she appeared before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday. After a 33-year career at the agency, she may be, in many respects, the most qualified person ever nominated to the post, as one Republican senator contended. But she has a dark chapter in her past: her supervision of a secret prison in Thailand where al-Qaida suspects were tortured, and her subsequent involvement in the destruction of videotapes of that shameful episode.
As Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the ranking Democrat on the committee, made clear from the outset, Haspel needs to repudiate that record. She must confirm that techniques such as waterboarding — now banned by law — were and are unacceptable, and she must make clear that she will never again accept orders to carry out acts that so clearly violate American moral standards, even if they are ordered by the president and certified by administration lawyers as legal.
Haspel did not meet that test. She volunteered that the CIA would not on her watch engage in torture; she supported the “stricter moral standard” the country had adopted. Pressed by Warner and several other senators, she eventually said she “would not allow CIA to undertake activity that I thought was immoral, even if it was technically legal.” What she would not say is that the torture she oversaw was immoral, should not have been done or that she regretted her own role in it.
That ambiguity matters at a time when the U.S. is led by a president who has cheered for torture, who lacks respect for the rule of law and who demands absolute loyalty from his aides. Unfortunately, it makes it impossible for us, and others for whom the repudiation of torture is a priority, to support Haspel’s nomination.
FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE WASHINGTON POST