CIA image at stake? Trump's spy chief nominee Haspel mulled withdrawal amid torture record scrutiny
Unwilling to further discredit the CIA’s already quite controversial 'enhanced interrogation' techniques used on suspected terrorists, 61-year-old Haspel reportedly asked, at a White House meeting on Friday, to have her nomination as the next CIA director withdrawn, both the Washington Post and Reuters reported, citing sources.
Fearing that Wednesday's Senate confirmation hearing could shed unnecessary light on classified torture programs that could potentially amount to war crimes and taint her career and the work of the US intelligence community, Haspel was allegedly ready to throw in the towel, before the White House and the CIA rushed to her aid over the weekend.
Haspel's nomination attracted controversy, not least because of her role in 2002 as chief of a CIA black site in Thailand, in which prisoners were 'questioned' under the Rendition, Detention and Interrogation Program authorized by George W. Bush in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. The 33-year-old veteran of the force served most of her career almost entirely undercover and much of her record is classified. While the CIA recently agreed to shed light on some of her records, the intelligence agency maintained that certain details about her career must remain classified.
Considering Haspel's apparent readiness to withdraw her candidacy and the CIA's refusal to offer transparency into her career, some now wonder how much worse the CIA torture program might actually be. While many continue to endorse her nomination, some members of the social media community demand her withdrawal, insisting that, if the Senate Intelligence Committee confirmation hearing is held with due diligence, Haspel stands absolutely no chance of passing the scrutiny.
"The takeaway for every United States Senator should be that they need a lot more information about Haspel than they're currently getting," Faiz Shakir, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), pointed out; last week, he demanded CIA records on Haspel, under the Freedom of Information Act.
The takeaway for every United States Senator should be that they need a lot more information about Haspel than they're currently getting. https://t.co/JIKEvjz5gA— Faiz (@fshakir) May 6, 2018
"You countenanced torture and then hid behind the Nuremberg defense of 'only following orders'," retired Detroit banker John Hicks wrote. "Your confirmation hearing will only serve to damage the CIA, an institution you profess to love."
@RealGinaHaspel Please withdraw your nomination Madam Haspel. You countenanced torture and then hid behind the Nuremberg defense of "only following orders". Your confirmation hearing will only serve to damage the CIA, an institution you profess to love. Withdraw now!— John Hicks (@john8jalil) May 6, 2018
Others, on the contrary, sincerely wished Haspel to go ahead in the hope that the confirmation hearing will hold her accountable for any alleged misdeeds.
I hope she goes ahead and that her confirmation hearing finally holds her accountable.— Jonathan Faull (@JonJonFaull) May 6, 2018
Gina Haspel, nominee to head CIA, sought to withdraw over questions about her role in agency interrogation programhttps://t.co/7wHezxLoYH
It doesn't bode well for how Haspel will handle her Wednesday hearing if she wanted to withdraw after facing tough questions on her role in torture program from the White House. https://t.co/YcxxzFYCOd— Elise Jordan (@Elise_Jordan) May 6, 2018
For weeks the Democrats have been calling for Haspel's candidacy to be disqualified because she is known to have waterboarded suspects in Thailand, and also apparently because she was Trump's nominee.
I wonder if part of the reason is because John Kelly, as a former 4 star general, knows that torture is wrong and violates the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Gina Haspel should withdraw from consideration as the next head of the CIA. https://t.co/RwpT0qro9A— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) May 6, 2018
This administration harms whoever comes close to it https://t.co/GgCgj0mGVf— Jennifer Rubin (@JRubinBlogger) May 6, 2018
Haspel wanting to withdraw her name sends two signals 1) She has a conscience that can be troubled. 2) She knows Trump’s reverse Midas effect is about to end her career. Asses she now withdraws & retires in 3 ... 2 ...1 https://t.co/unB8zhFmwZ— Malcolm Nance (@MalcolmNance) May 6, 2018
In the face of the criticism of Haspel's candidacy, the CIA on Sunday rushed to defend their prodigy. "When the American people finally have a chance to see the true Gina Haspel on Wednesday, they will understand why she is so admired and why she is and will be a great leader for this agency," CIA spokesman Ryan Trapani said in a statement Sunday.
"Acting Director Haspel is a highly qualified nominee who has dedicated over three decades of service to her country," Raj Shah, the White House principal deputy press secretary, said in a statement Sunday. "Her nomination will not be derailed by partisan critics who side with the ACLU over the CIA on how to keep the American people safe."
Earlier the White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders also –a bit overzealously– dashed to defend Trump's nominee, facing harsh criticism for playing the feminist and women's empowerment card way too openly.
"There is no one more qualified to be the first woman to lead the CIA than 30+ year CIA veteran Gina Haspel," she tweeted. "Any Democrat who claims to support women's empowerment and our national security but opposes her nomination is a total hypocrite.”
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