One of the biggest things standing in the way of Gina Haspel, President Trump’s nominee for CIA director, has been her history of overseeing torture. Well, in what appears to be a last-ditch effort to woo some of her critics, Haspel has finally admitted, after all these years, that maybe torture was not the best idea. And it looks like it worked!!
Today, Senator Mark Warner, the vice chairman and top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, announced that he will be supporting Haspel’s nomination—despite deeming the lack of transparency around the disclosure of her professional past “unacceptable” just last week, and also despite the fact that she is, y’know, a torturer.
So what has changed? Warner’s decision comes on the heels of a letter Haspel wrote to him, in which she expressed something vaguely resembling regret about the CIA’s use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” (or “torture,” for those who aren’t trying to make acts like waterboarding palatable). Via the New York Times:
“While I won’t condemn those that made these hard calls, and I have noted the valuable intelligence collected, the program ultimately did damage to our officers and our standing in the world,” she wrote. “With the benefit of hindsight and my experience as a senior agency leader, the enhanced interrogation program is not one the C.I.A. should have undertaken. The United States must be an example to the rest of the world, and I support that.”
Wow! While it is very nice of Haspel to say that the CIA should not have done the torture, this letter doesn’t actually express any regret at all! She defends her colleagues and claims (with no evidence) that torture yielded valuable intelligence. It seems like her biggest regret about the CIA’s use of torture is that it isn’t good PR for America.
It is very easy to see that Haspel was just saying what she thinks Warner wants to hear without compromising her actual position on the matter. To most people who value human rights, this would be very insulting. But the spineless Warner seems to have either fallen for Haspel’s “sorry not sorry” approach to torture, or simply doesn’t care.
Soon after, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota announced that she was also voting for Haspel. This brings the number of Democrats backing Haspel to four (Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Joe Manchin of West Virginia already said they were voting for Haspel). Heitkamp even noted that Sen. John McCain, a torture survivor, has urged senators to vote against Haspel, but said that Haspel’s promise not to torture again had swayed her.
Because of Heitkamp’s support, as well as the support of these other Democrats, Haspel is almost certain to be confirmed. Thanks you guys!