President Donald Trump’s choice to lead the CIA is making it even more clear that the program sanctioning harsh interrogations during the George W. Bush administration should not have taken place.
Gina Haspel, the current acting director of the agency, expanded upon her testimony in a letter dated Monday to Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee.
“Over the last 17 years, the Agency and I have learned the hard lessons since 9/11. While I won’t condemn those that 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, according to a copy obtained by Roll Call. “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.
The letter became public the day before the Senate Intelligence panel is scheduled to vote on advancing the Haspel nomination to the floor, at a point where Warner, a Virginia Democrat, had not yet announced support or opposition to the nominee.
And shortly after the letter made the rounds, Warner announced he would support her nomination, all but guaranteeing her confirmation.
“I acknowledge that this has been a difficult decision. There are valid questions that have been raised regarding the Acting Director’s record, and I have been frank with Ms. Haspel that I wish she had been more open with the American public during this process,” Warner wrote in a statement announcing his support. He added: “However, in both our one-on-one meetings and in classified session before the Committee, I found Acting Director Haspel to be more forthcoming regarding her views on the interrogation program, which is why I asked her to memorialize those comments in writing. I also take to heart the strong support Ms. Haspel has among rank-and-file members of the intelligence community and from intelligence community leaders who served under President Obama.”
Watch: Haspel Faced Protesters, Questions on Interrogation
North Dakota Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp also announced Tuesday she would support Haspel’s nomination.
Haspel also wrote in her letter that the CIA during the Bush administration should have been more direct with the Intelligence Committee about the interrogation and rendition operations.
“As I stated to the Committee, it was a mistake not to brief the entire Committee at the beginning. Both the Committee and the Agency shared the goal of obtaining the critical intelligence needed to thwart another attack,” Haspel wrote.
In response to the letter to Warner, which was first reported by CNN, Christopher Anders, the deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington Legislative Office, pointed out that the letter does not specifically address questions about Haspel’s personal involvement in the enhanced interrogations.
“She went through an entire public hearing without once acknowledging her own actions. In a letter to the Senate today she admits that ‘the program ultimately did damage to our officers,’ but does not acknowledge that she had a supervisory role. Haspel is using her power to keep her own role secret as a way to help jam through her own nomination,“ Anders said in a statement.