by Robert Donachie
Gina Haspel, President Donald Trump’s pick to become the director of the CIA, faced a grilling from the Senate Intelligence Committee Wednesday, answering questions regarding her involvement in advanced interrogation techniques, her views of torture and her vision for the agency.
The Daily Caller News Foundation collated five key takeaways from Haspel’s hearing with the committee Wednesday.
Did Russia Attempt To Influence The 2016 Presidential Election?
“In January of 2017, the [Senate Intelligence Committee] issued a joint report on the Russia involvement in the 2016 elections. Do you agree with the findings of that report?” Independent Sen. Angus King of Maine asked Haspel.
“Senator, I do,” Haspel responded.
The Senate Intelligence Committee released a report in January 2017 that detailed Russian attempts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.
“We assess with high confidence that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election, the consistent goals of which were to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency,” the senators on the intelligence committee wrote in January 2017.
The senators found Russia attempted to sway the election in favor of Trump, especially after it became apparent to the Kremlin that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would likely win the election.
What Would You Do If The President Ordered You To Get Back In The Business Of Interrogation?
“I would not restart under any circumstances, an interrogation program at the CIA,” Haspel told Sen. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico in response to the whether or not she would restart an interrogation program at the bequest of Trump.
Haspel reiterated her statement multiple times throughout the hearing.
Heinrich is referencing a secret prison, known as “Cat’s Eye,” that Haspel once directed in Thailand, where terrorist suspects were subject to waterboarding and other “advanced” interrogation techniques. Haspel took over the prison in October 2002, after one inmate, Abu Zubaydah, was reportedly waterboarded at least 83 times in one month. A little over a month after Haspel’s arrival, another suspect, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who is the alleged mastermind of the USS Cole bombing in 2000 that killed 17 Americans, was waterboarded three times.
Haspel left the prison after it closed in December 2002.
Was The CIA Prepared To Run A Detention And Interrogation Program After 9/11?
“The CIA was not prepared to conduct a detention and interrogation program,” Haspel said in her opening remarks. “Today, the U.S. government has a clear legal and policy framework that governs detentions and interrogations.”
Does Torture Work?
“I don’t believe that torture works,” Haspel told Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris of California. “I believe that in the CIA’s program, and I’m not attributing this to enhanced interrogation techniques … that valuable information was obtained from senior Al Qaeda operatives that allowed us to defend this country and prevent another attack.”
What Was Your Role In The Destruction Of Waterboarding Video Evidence?
Haspel was questioned regarding her role in the 2005 destruction of video evidence of CIA agents waterboarding terrorist suspects. Haspel served as the chief of staff to Jose Rodriquez, the director of operations for counterterrorism, when he ordered the destruction of videotapes of waterboarding sessions. Haspel was reportedly in favor of destroying the evidence.
The CIA declassified a review that found “no fault with the performance” of Haspel in the destruction of the videotape evidence, which could help clear the air for senators who are troubled by her involvement in the matter.
Haspel said that if she was given the order again, she would not support it.
Haspel, if confirmed, will replace Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as the next director of one the nation’s top intelligence agencies. She would be the first female director in the agency’s more than 70-year history.
She currently serves as the deputy director of the CIA, a position she has held since Feb. 7, 2017. The deputy director has held a number of positions in the CIA during her 33 years with the agency, including: deputy director of the National Clandestine Service, deputy director of the National Clandestine Service for Foreign Intelligence and Covert Action as well as chief of staff for the director of the National Clandestine Service.
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