Senate confirms Gina Haspel as CIA chief despite her torture past

Senate confirms Gina Haspel as CIA chief despite her torture past
Gina Haspel is the new director of the CIA, after getting confirmed in the US Senate. Several Democrats crossed the aisle and gave her the green light, despite objecting to Haspel’s role in the CIA’s torture program.

The final vote was 53 in favor and 45 opposed.

Haspel's road to the confirmation was intense, with the Senate Intelligence Committee grilling her about running a controversial black site in Thailand during the era of extraordinary renditions and enhanced interrogation of suspected terrorists under President George W. Bush. She was also asked about a her role in destroying some 90 tapes evidencing torture of detainees.

Haspel showed the craft of dodging the questions and revealed that it is she who decided what information about her previous activities should see light. This fact bothered many senators during the final debates on the floor.

Yet, probably understanding she needs to win the lawmakers, Haspel promised to be good in the future. She wrote a letter to the committee's ranking member, Senator Mark Warner (D-Virginia), in which she said she wouldn’t torture again, and said the CIA should not have carried out its torture program.  

Warner said he thought Haspel would be able to stand up to US President Donald Trump and supported her along with several other Democrats. He cast the final vote on the floor on Thursday, after Haspel's confirmation was a done deal.

It's unclear if Warner considered another letter. A doctor who examined Abdal Rahim al-Nashiri, a prisoner tortured under the supervision of Haspel, told The Intercept she privately urged Warner to oppose her confirmation.

“I am one of the only health professionals he has ever talked to about his torture, its effects, and his ongoing suffering,” Dr. Sondra Crosby wrote to Warner’s legislative director on Monday. “He is irreversibly damaged by torture that was unusually cruel and designed to break him. In my over 20 years of experience treating torture victims from around the world, including Syria, Iraq, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mr. al-Nashiri presents as one of the most severely traumatized individuals I have ever seen.”

Crosby highlighted the known acts of torture committed against Nashiri, which included waterboarding, mock executions, anal rape and threatened to sexually assault his mother.

Democrats who voiced their approval for Haspel before the confirmation hearing drew ire from their base, however.

A number of Republicans voiced their opposition to Haspel before the Senate vote on Thursday, with Senator Jeff Flake (R-Arizona) joining John McCain (R-Arizona) and Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) against her on Wednesday. McCain did not cast a vote, as he is fighting brain cancer.

Former CIA officer and whistleblower John Kiriakou told RT Haspel is “the single worst pick in all of Washington DC.” He explained that, while all CIA officers were tough on terrorism, that “doesn’t mean that you have to ignore the Constitution of the United States and international law to prove that you’re tough.”

CIA analyst and anti-war activist Ray McGovern, who was roughly dragged out of Haspel’s senate committee hearing and arrested, told RT Haspel was the “worst possible person” to have as CIA head. “She will do what she is told to do. That is how she got to where she is.” he said, adding that Trump had said “torture works,” and so Haspel could find herself waterboarding again. “

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