Thursday, May 10, 2018

Too Many Questions

Following the testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee of President Trump's nominee as CIA firector, Gina Haspel, the editorial board of The New York Times noted

In 2002, Ms. Haspel headed a C.I.A. detention facility in Thailand where a suspect linked to Al Qaeda, accused of orchestrating the attack on the American destroyer Cole off the coast of Yemen,  was waterboarded and brutalized in other ways. And in 2005, under her boss’s direction, she drafted a cable ordering the agency to destroy more than 90 videotapes of its interrogation of that man.

Vietnam War torture victim and U.S. senator John McCain from his Arizona ranch issued a three-paragraph, ten-sentence statement concluding

I believe Gina Haspel is a patriot who loves our country and has devoted her professional life to its service and defense. However, Ms. Haspel’s role in overseeing the use of torture by Americans is disturbing. Her refusal to acknowledge torture’s immorality is disqualifying. I believe the Senate should exercise its duty of advice and consent and reject this nomination.

Despite McCain almost uniquely (and among his fellow Senators, uniquely) occupying the moral high ground on torture, his sentiments have not necessarily persuaded anyone, with the possible exception of his Arizona colleague, Jeff Flake.

That's hardly surprising, for each brings his or her own values, ideology, and impression of the nominee and her testimony into the mix.  When Republican senator Susan Collins of Maine asked her “If the CIA has a high-value terrorism suspect in its custody and the President gave you a direct order to waterboard that terrorist, what would you do?” Haspell replied “I do not believe the president would ask me to do that."

I take that to be a "yes."  If Haspell had maintained that she would refuse the order and resign, Democrats would be reassured and  Republicans, who would be know that Haspell would make way for a compliant director, would be satisfied.

In June 2016 Trump asked Himself at a rally in Ohio "what do you think of waterboarding,"  He responded "I like it a lot. I don’t think it’s tough enough."At a primary debate in New Hampshire four months earlier, he had declared "I would bring back waterboarding. And I would bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding."   If Haspell believes that's far-fetched, she hasn't thought through that possiblility. Alternatively, she is the yes-man/woman she was when she did as she was told by her superior in destroying the torture videotapes.

In a letter to Attorney General Sessions, six Democratic-aligned senators have requested declassification of the internal investigation into destruction of the videotapes by the C.I.A. "No senator can consider Ms. Haspel's nomination in good conscience without first reviewing this document," they recognize.

Additionally, much of the documentation pertaining to Ms. Haspel's record currently are confidential and should be, as the Times editorial asserted, declassified. That is not likely. Who determines whether it can be released? Acting director of the Central Intelligence Agency Gina Haspel.

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