Donald Trump urges Central Intelligence Agency pick with torture history to stay on board

Arturo Kim
May 8, 2018

"My highly respected nominee for CIA Director, Gina Haspel, has come under fire because she was too tough on Terrorists", Trump tweeted, referring to criticisms of Haspel's tenure overseeing a black site CIA prison in Thailand after 9/11, where detainees were subjected to brutal torture, including sleep deprivation and waterboarding. President Donald Trump defended Haspel in a tweet Monday morning and White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Haspel is "100%" committed to seeing her confirmation process through. Whether Ms. Haspel was an enthusiastic proponent of what the Bush administration euphemistically referred to as "enhanced interrogation techniques" or simply following along with tactics that the White House claimed at the time were legal, there is no doubt that she oversaw the repeated waterboarding of a detainee at a secret Central Intelligence Agency site in Thailand and that she was later involved in the destruction of evidence related to it.

"And she could even, if she wanted to, if they could unclassify everything, tell us everything that you were able to pick up, because in Jose Rodriguez's book - it's in Jim Mitchell's book", he continued.

That response has not satisfied Democrats, particularly after the CIA did declassify an internal 2011 report written by then-deputy CIA director Mike Morell that cleared Haspel of wrongdoing over the destruction of CIA interrogation tapes. But, he said, "the White House bucked her up".

White House aides on Friday sought out additional details about Haspel's involvement in the CIA's now-defunct program of detaining and brutally interrogating terror suspects after the September 11 attacks as they prepared her for the confirmation hearing.

The Washington Post says she was summoned to the White House on Friday by officials anxious about her previous support for the techniques.

Trump in his Twitter said that he Haspel "was heavily criticized because he behaved harshly with terrorists".

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Haspel, who would be the first woman to lead the CIA, is the first career operations officer to be nominated to lead the agency in decades.

Trump, who has urged Americans to be tougher on terrorists, highlighted Haspel's experience as a benefit. She later offered to withdraw her candidacy.

The 51-49 Republican-Democrat split in the Senate makes her confirmation vulnerable, particularly with the longstanding absence of John McCain, who is ill.

Haspel, whose confirmation hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, reportedly offered to withdraw her nomination Friday after facing continued backlash for her role in the waterboarding.

During his 2016 presidential bid, Trump claimed that "torture works".

Her career has brought her to the United Kingdom twice, where she acted as the chief of the London station.

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