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Gina Haspel now says the CIA should have never had a torture program

Last week, Gina Haspel defended the CIA’s use of torture. Now, she says the program should never have existed.

by Alex Lubben
May 15 2018, 4:14pm

Gina Haspel’s “moral compass” appears to have shifted.

During her confirmation hearing last week, President Trump’s nominee to lead the CIA said she morally couldn’t reinstate the intelligence agency’s post-9/11 torture program. But she also wouldn’t exactly condemn the waterboarding and other atrocities that happened behind closed doors.

In a Tuesday letter to the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, however, Haspel finally admitted the program never should have existed in the first place.

"While I won't condemn those who made these hard calls, and I have noted the valuable intelligence collected, the program ultimately did damage to our officers and our standing in the world," Haspel wrote to Sen. Mark Warner in a letter obtained by CNN. "With the benefit of hindsight and my experience as a senior agency leader, the enhanced interrogation program is not one the CIA should have undertaken."

That’s a 180-degree turn from Haspel’s stance during her confirmation hearing on May 9.

When pressed by Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee about the morality and usefulness of the torture program, she hedged — and outright defended — the program and its efficacy at producing valuable intelligence used to prevent other terror attacks.

She even went so far as to say that the tragedy wasn’t the CIA’s use of brutal tactics, like waterboarding, but rather that politics had eclipsed the good work the CIA had done at the time.

READ: Gina Haspel's "moral compass" apparently doesn't extend to condemning CIA torture

“I think we did extraordinary work,” Haspel told the committee in the public hearing. “To me, the tragedy is that the controversy surrounding the interrogation program, which, as I’ve already indicated, to Sen. Warner, I fully understand that. But it has cast a shadow over what has been a major contribution to protecting this country.”

Her role in CIA torture — she oversaw a “black site” in Thailand, where a woman said she was tortured while pregnant — has caused many Democrats, as well as a few Republicans, to question her fitness to lead the agency. For Republican Sen. John McCain, who was tortured in Vietnam, Haspel’s role in CIA torture is a red line: He’s called for his colleagues to reject her nomination.

Cover image: Gina Haspel, President Donald Trump's pick to lead the Central Intelligence Agency, smiles as she testifies at her confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee, on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, May 9, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

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