Gina Haspel’s confirmation hearing for CIA director was never going to be a breeze. The CIA veteran oversaw the torture of a suspected al-Qaeda member at a “black site” in Thailand in 2002 and was later involved in the destruction of tapes documenting the interrogations. Lawmakers honed in on that time Wednesday, repeatedly asking Haspel about her involvement in the program, the morality of the techniques, and whether she would allow the agency to resume the use of such methods in the future.
Haspel conceded that the agency learned “tough lessons” from the use of harsh detention and interrogation tactics and, over the course of more than two hours, continually told lawmakers that she would not bring back the program if confirmed. Below, a selection of 10 moments from the testimony:
The Destruction of the Interrogation Tapes
Richard Burr: Ms. Haspel, let’s dig right into it. There’s been much debate and much news coverage about Jose Rodriguez, the former director of the National Clandestine Service, and his decision to direct the destruction of the detainee-interrogation videotapes. Can you describe for the members your role in those events?
Haspel: Senator, yes, I can. In 2005, I believe it was fall of 2005, I was chief of staff to the deputy director for operations, that is head of the clandestine service. The tape issue had lingered at CIA for a period of about three years. I believe the tapes were made in 2002, and over time there was a great deal of concern about the security risk posed to CIA officers who were depicted on the tapes. Those security issues centered on the threat from al-Qaeda should those tapes be irresponsibly leaked. Mr. Rodriguez, who was the DDO at the time, the deputy director for operations, has been very up front and has made it clear on a number of occasions publicly that he and he alone made the decision to destroy the tapes. I would also make it clear that I did not appear on the tapes, as has been mischaracterized in the press. … At the time the tapes were destroyed, Mr. Rodriguez asked me to prepare a cable because he was going to have another conversation with then-director of the agency to talk about this issue again. I did so. A couple of days later, he released the order, he believed, on his own authority. He took the decision himself and he said it was based on his own authority.
What Guides Haspel’s Moral Compass
Mark Warner: If you’re entrusted with this responsibility, I need to at least get a sense of what your moral code says about those kind of actions, because there is the potential that this president could ask you to do something. He obviously believes in these procedures, but even if he asked you to do something that is not directly related to detention and interrogation, if he asks you to do something that you believe is morally questionable, even if there isn’t an [Office of Legal Counsel] opinion that gives you a get-out-of-jail-free card, what will you do in that action when you are the director of the CIA?
Haspel: Senator, my father’s watching today. He served 33 years in the Air Force. My parents gave me a very strong moral compass. I support the higher moral standard that this country has decided to hold itself to. I would never, ever take CIA back to an interrogation program. First of all, CIA follows the law. We followed the law then; we follow the law today. I support the law. I wouldn’t support a change in the law, but I’ll tell you this, I would not put CIA officers at risk by asking them to undertake risky, controversial activity again.