The protester who just got thrown out of Gina Haspel’s confirmation hearing used to brief Ronald Reagan every morning.
Former CIA operative turned activist Ray McGovern got up at the Wednesday hearing on Capitol Hill and demanded answers from Haspel, acting head of the CIA and President Trump's nominee to replace Mike Pompeo as CIA chief. While she promised not to create another torture program, she also wouldn’t condemn the previous one, including what happened at a CIA black site in the years after 9/11. When McGovern spoke up, at least five Capitol Police officers quickly detained him, warned him to stop resisting, and threw him out of the hearing in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
The hubbub started when Sen. Jack Reed, a Democrat from Rhode Island, asked Haspel about the morality of “enhanced interrogation techniques” (read: torture) and how she would react if one of her own officers were tortured. Would she consider a CIA officer being waterboarded by “terrorists” to be immoral? Reed wanted to know.
“Sorry to interrupt here,” McGovern said, standing up in the audience. “Senator Wyden, you deserve a direct answer.” Wyden, however, wasn’t questioning Haspel at the time, so it’s unclear what McGovern was referring to.
At that point, Sen. Richard Burr, the head of the committee, ordered Capitol Police to escort McGovern out of the room. And as they did, McGovern yelled something inaudible about waterboarding.
In the days leading up to the hearing, McGovern wrote an opinion piece denouncing Haspel’s nomination, headlined, “Will a Torturer Become CIA Director?” In it, he claims torture is not only immoral but also doesn’t work: It simply produces “false intelligence” from the victim, who will say just about anything to put an end to their torture, he argued.
When Sen. Kamala Harris, a Democrat from California, asked Haspel if she agrees with President Trump that torture “works,” Haspel said no but also added: “I believe, as many directors who have sat in this chair before me, that valuable information was obtained from senior al Qaida operatives that allowed us to defend this country and prevent another attack.”