WASHINGTON, DC - U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and an ex officio member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, released the following statement today on the nomination of Gina Haspel to be Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA):
“I have immense respect for the men and women of the CIA. I have met and thanked them in many of the world’s most dangerous locations. They do demanding and difficult work that helps safeguard our nation. We owe them a debt of gratitude, and they deserve a leader with the courage, integrity, and commitment to always uphold American values and guide the agency through complex and challenging times.
“I don’t question Ms. Haspel’s patriotism, intellect, or dedication to the agency. However, her inability to acknowledge previous mistakes by the CIA and refusal to clearly denounce torture is deeply troubling. I agree with Senator McCain that waterboarding and extreme interrogation techniques are immoral. And, as military leaders have pointed out, torture is ineffective in gathering actionable intelligence because it results in false confessions.
“I appreciate Ms. Haspel’s letter, but it simply didn’t go far enough. What happened in the past was wrong, and those who seek to lead our national security institutions today must admit it was wrong, not merely acknowledge that “torture is illegal.”
“Some have suggested that Ms. Haspel is being held to a higher standard than former Director Brennan, who also served in leadership positions at the CIA during the creation and operation of the detention and interrogation program. During his confirmation process, former Director Brennan stated that he was aware of the program, but “did not play a role in its creation, execution, or oversight.” He also testified, under oath, that he raised significant concerns and “personal objections” to colleagues at the time and stated that waterboarding is “reprehensible” and inconsistent with American values.
“Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for Ms. Haspel. There is a lot the public doesn’t know about Ms. Haspel due to the CIA’s selective declassification of her record, but we do know that she was unwilling to make similar statements condemning the use of torture.
“We also know this: Ms. Haspel supported the destruction of evidence despite known objections from superiors at the CIA and the White House. That alone should cause serious, bipartisan concern. Ms. Haspel’s claim that she was just following orders is deeply flawed. And it’s even more concerning given the fact the person who nominated her for this promotion has advocated bringing back waterboarding.
“President Trump has stated: “Torture works. Okay, folks?” You know, I have these guys – ‘Torture doesn’t work!’ – believe me, it works. And waterboarding is your minor form. Some people say it’s not actually torture. Let’s assume it is. But they asked me the question:‘What do you think of waterboarding?’ Absolutely fine. But we should go much stronger than waterboarding.”
“Based on her record and statements, I have a hard time believing Ms. Haspel will stand up to President Trump’s strategically shortsighted view on this matter.
“There are many highly-respected voices in the intelligence community who believe Ms. Haspel would make a fine leader of the CIA. I hope they will encourage her to start being more forthcoming with Congress and the American people.
“At this point, her lack of transparency, unwillingness to repudiate torture, and inability to learn from past mistakes doesn’t inspire confidence that she is the right person to lead the CIA. I will vote no on her nomination.”