Gina Haspel, President Donald Trump’s nominee for Central Intelligence Agency director, testified Wednesday, May 9, at a Senate Intelligence Committee confirmation hearing in both open and closed sessions on Capitol Hill.
The morning open session was punctuated by questioning, primarily from the Democratic side, about Haspel’s time running a covert detention site where suspects were brutally interrogated during George W. Bush’s “war on terror.” The 33-year veteran CIA operative seemed to struggle at times to tell senators how she would respond if the president would ask her to reintroduce waterboarding of terrorist suspects.
“Senator, I would advise,” she began, then restarted her answer: “I do not believe the president would ask me to do that.” Trump had vowed to authorize waterboarding and “a hell of a lot worse” during his election campaign. Haspel also came under fire for her role in destroying videotapes that documented harsh interrogations of inmates. The hearings were twice interrupted by protesters.
Though most of the Democratic members of the Senate Intelligence Committee and the lone Independent have gone on record against Haspel’s nomination, she got a major boost when Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) announced he would support her nomination. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who had been undecided, later came out in favor.
Chairman Richard Burr (R-North Carolina) said he expected the committee to vote on Haspel’s nomination sometime next week. Though Haspel’s path through the committee seems all but assured, the final vote in the Senate is not. Later on Wednesday night, John McCain (R-Arizona), himself a victim of torture at the hands of the North Vietnamese, urged the Senate to reject Haspel’s nomination, stating: “Ms. Haspel’s role in overseeing the use of torture by Americans is disturbing. Her refusal to acknowledge torture’s immorality is disqualifying.” Another Republican, Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), also voiced his opposition.
View Jeff Malet’s photos of the Gina Haspel confirmation hearing by clicking on the photo icons below.