Gina Haspel now says CIA shouldn't have conducted its interrogation program

WASHINGTON ― Gina Haspel, President Donald Trump’s nominee to head the CIA,  says the agency shouldn’t have used its infamous enhanced interrogation techniques, a week after she repeatedly refused to take a stand on the program’s morality at her Senate confirmation hearing.

In a letter sent on Monday to Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Haspel said that the controversial methods that sought to gain information from terrorism suspects in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks “did damage to our officers and our standing in the world.”

“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,” Haspel said in the letter, first obtained by CNN. “With the benefit of hindsight and my experience as a senior agency leader, the enhanced interrogation program is not one the CIA should have undertaken.”

At her confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill, Haspel told lawmakers she would not restart the agency’s torture program ― which included waterboarding ― if confirmed as the CIA’s director. But she repeatedly dodged the question of whether it was appropriate.

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Nominee to be Director of the Central Intelligence Agency Gina Haspel arrives for meetings with Senators on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., May 7, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Acting CIA Director Gina Haspel is sworn in prior to testifying at her Senate Intelligence Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., May 9, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director nominee Gina Haspel (R) attends Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's ceremonial swearing-in at the State Department in Washington, U.S. May 2, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Gina Haspel, a veteran CIA clandestine officer picked by U.S. President Donald Trump to head the Central Intelligence Agency, is shown in this handout photograph released on March 13, 2018. CIA/Handout via Reuters ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Nominee to be Director of the Central Intelligence Agency Gina Haspel arrives for meetings with Senators on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., May 7, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Acting CIA Director Gina Haspel testifies at her Senate Intelligence Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., May 9, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director nominee Gina Haspel (C) attends Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's ceremonial swearing-in at the State Department in Washington, U.S. May 2, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
UNITED STATES - MAY 7: Gina Haspel, nominee to become CIA director, arrives for her meeting with Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., in the Hart Senate Office Building on Monday, May 7, 2018. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Acting CIA Director Gina Haspel testifies at her Senate Intelligence Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., May 9, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
UNITED STATES - MAY 7: Gina Haspel, nominee to be director of the CIA, arrives in Hart Building for meetings with Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and other senators on May 7, 2018. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
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According to CNN, Haspel refrained from doing so in the public portion of her hearing because “she did not want to be seen as publicly criticizing her colleagues at the CIA.”

Haspel’s reluctance to condemn the interrogation techniques spurred Republican Sen. John McCain, who was tortured while in captivity during the Vietnam War, to announce his opposition to her nomination. McCain made the announcement from his home in Arizona, where he is battling brain cancer.

McCain’s move, in turn, prompted an embarrassment for the Trump administration when a White House aide at a private meeting jokingly dismissed the senator’s opposition because “he’s dying anyway.” The White House has resisted calls for a public apology over the remark. 

In her Monday letter, Haspel said that she would refuse “to undertake any proposed activity that is contrary to my moral and ethical values.” The statement appeared to be aimed at skeptical senators who asked Haspel whether she would restart the program if ordered to do so by Trump.

The letter comes ahead of Wednesday’s committee vote on her nomination ― which she is expected to clear, thanks to the support of at least one Democrat ― Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.). 

Warner, another key Democratic holdout, has been facing pressure at home from liberal activist groups to oppose Haspel. But he has also praised her qualifications and said last week during the public portion of her confirmation hearing that she needed to make the kind of disavowal of torture she made Tuesday.

Read her letter below:

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.
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