Gina Haspel vows CIA will not engage in torture

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US President Donald Trump‘s nominee to head the CIA has vowed the spy agency will “never, ever” resume a programme of harsh interrogations, often denounced as torture, under her watch.

Gina Haspel, who is facing opposition over her role at a secret CIA prison in Thailand in 2002, told her Senate confirmation hearing the spy agency learned “tough lessons” from its use of harsh detention and interrogation tactics on “terror” suspects after the September 11 attacks.

“Having served in that tumultuous time, I can offer you my personal commitment, clearly and without reservation, that under my leadership CIA will not restart such a detention and interrogation programme,” she said on Wednesday.

Haspel said US law now clearly prohibits such interrogation methods, and “I fully support the detainee treatment required by law.”

In hindsight, she added, it was clear the CIA was not prepared and did not have the expertise to use techniques such as sleep deprivation and waterboarding, which simulates drowning, to get “terror suspects” to talk. 

Haspel, currently the spy agency’s acting director, also said she would not carry out any order from Trump that she found morally objectionable.

“My moral compass is strong. I would not allow CIA to undertake activity that I thought was immoral, even if it was technically legal. I would absolutely not permit it,” she said.

Haspel needs 51 votes to be confirmed as the first woman director of the CIA in the 100-seat Senate, where Trump’s fellow Republicans hold a 51-49 majority.

Torture in Thailand

The agency’s former deputy director, she would succeed Mike Pompeo, a Republican former congressman confirmed last month as secretary of state.

Haspel faces a difficult time being confirmed.

At least one Republican, Senator Rand Paul, has said he opposes her confirmation, and others have said they will wait to see how she does at the confirmation hearing.

No Democrat has yet expressed support for Haspel.

An undercover agent for most of her more than 30-year career, Haspel in 2002 – during President George W Bush’s administration – served as CIA station chief in Thailand, where the agency ran one of the secret “black” prisons where suspected al-Qaeda detainees were interrogated using methods that included waterboarding.

Democratic senators have vowed to question Haspel about the issue. But they may find it difficult to question her about the effectiveness of controversial activities such as drone attacks because most information is classified.

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