“The White House was not entirely sure she would stick with her nomination until Saturday afternoon”
We covered President Trump’s nomination of Gina Haspel as CIA Director back in March. At the time, Mary noted that Haspel had run a prison in Thailand that engaged in enhanced interrogation and that she would likely face questions about her role in the interrogation methods used at that time.
To complicate matters for Haspel, ProPublica published and later retracted an erroneous story claiming that Haspel had personally overseen the waterboarding of suspect Abu Zubaydah. Despite the retraction, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) has stated that he will still not vote to confirm Haspel, a problem since the Republicans have such a slim majority in the Senate.
According to the Washington Post, Haspel attempted to withdraw her name on Friday.
Gina Haspel, President Trump’s nominee to become the next CIA director, sought to withdraw her nomination Friday after some White House officials worried that her role in the interrogation of terrorist suspects could prevent her confirmation by the Senate, according to four senior U.S. officials.
. . . . Taken aback at her stance, senior White House aides, including legislative affairs head Marc Short and press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, rushed to Langley, Va., to meet with Haspel at her office late Friday afternoon. Discussions stretched several hours, officials said, and the White House was not entirely sure she would stick with her nomination until Saturday afternoon, according to the officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.
Trump learned of the drama Friday, calling officials from his trip to Dallas. He decided to push for Haspel to remain as the nominee after initially signaling he would support whatever decision was taken, administration officials said.
According to the left (and Rand Paul), Haspel should not be considered for the CIA’s top spot because of her role in interrogation methods that were legal at the time.
Americans can disagree about the merits of enhanced interrogation after 9/11, but there’s no debating that the CIA’s interrogation program was legal at the time. The Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel produced memos making the legal case.
The memos were withdrawn some years later, and Congress has also since changed the law to ban some of the techniques that were used in the immediate wake of 9/11. But Ms. Haspel is not responsible for any legal errors. Her job was to protect the country.
. . . . In any event, the self-righteousness is hard to take from Members of Congress, many of whom were briefed extensively on the enhanced interrogation techniques at the time and knew well what was happening. The people misrepresenting the CIA nominee were in the cheap seats during the worst days of the war on terror. Ms. Haspel didn’t have that luxury.
It’s worth noting that Obama’s DOJ under Eric Holder conducted a three-year investigation into the enhanced interrogation methods employed by the CIA under President Bush and concluded that there was insufficient evidence of criminal wrongdoing to secure convictions.
The New York Times reported in 2012:
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. announced Thursday that no one would be prosecuted for the deaths of a prisoner in Afghanistan in 2002 and another in Iraq in 2003, eliminating the last possibility that any criminal charges will be brought as a result of the brutal interrogations carried out by the C.I.A.
Mr. Holder had already ruled out any charges related to the use of waterboarding and other methods that most human rights experts consider to be torture. His announcement closes a contentious three-year investigation by the Justice Department and brings to an end years of dispute over whether line intelligence or military personnel or their superiors would be held accountable for the abuse of prisoners in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
The closing of the two cases means that the Obama administration’s limited effort to scrutinize the counterterrorism programs carried out under President George W. Bush has come to an end. Without elaborating, Mr. Holder suggested that the end of the criminal investigation should not be seen as a moral exoneration of those involved in the prisoners’ treatment and deaths.
“Based on the fully developed factual record concerning the two deaths, the department has declined prosecution because the admissible evidence would not be sufficient to obtain and sustain a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt,” his statement said. It said the investigation “was not intended to, and does not resolve, broader questions regarding the propriety of the examined conduct.”
The idea of going after CIA operatives for conducting then-legal interrogations was always a bad idea, even Obama noted that during his first month in office . . . not that it stopped his DOJ from opening a new investigation later that same year.
The New York Times continues:
On his first full day in office in January 2009, Mr. Obama banned coercive interrogation methods and ordered the closing of the C.I.A.’s remaining prisons overseas. But he said that month that while he did not “believe that anybody is above the law,” he preferred “to look forward as opposed to looking backwards” and that he did not want C.I.A. employees to “suddenly feel like they’ve got to spend all their time looking over their shoulders and lawyering.”
. . . . Mr. Holder’s decision in 2009 to open a new investigation into the C.I.A. interrogations was sharply criticized by some former intelligence officials and Republicans in Congress. The harsh interrogation methods, including the near-drowning of waterboarding, had been authorized in Justice Department legal opinions, and the deaths in custody had been previously reviewed by prosecutors during Mr. Bush’s presidency.
There may be plenty of reasons to consider Haspel unsuited to become the CIA’s first woman director, but her role in legal activities that have since been banned should not be among them.DONATE
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