McCain Presses Trump’s CIA Pick on Her Involvement With Torture Program

Says techniques ‘produced false and misleading information’

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., pressed President Donald Trump's nominee to lead the Central Intelligence Agency for her role in the agency's torture programs. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file)

Sen. John McCainon Friday pressed Gina Haspel, President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the Central Intelligence Agency, for information on her involvement with the agency’s “enhanced interrogation” program.  

“Over the course of your career with the intelligence community, you have served in positions of responsibility that have intersected with the CIA’s program of so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques,” the Arizona Republican, who leads the Senate Armed Services Committee, wrote in a letter to Haspel. “We now know that these techniques not only failed to deliver actionable intelligence, but actually produced false and misleading information. Most importantly, the use of torture compromised our values, stained our national honor, and threatened our historical reputation.” 


The letter underscores the challenge Haspel will have in receiving Senate confirmation for the top position at the CIA. Both Democrats and Republicans have raised concerns over her involvement at a “black site” prison in Thailand and her role in the “enhanced interrogation” of terrorism suspects, which McCain and others have labeled as torture. 


“These techniques included the practice of waterboarding, forced nudity and humiliation, facial and abdominal slapping, dietary manipulation, stress positions, cramped confinement, striking, and more than 48 hours of sleep deprivation,” McCain wrote to Haspel. 


In the letter, McCain requested information on her involvement with the program and whether she was directly involved or oversaw any “enhanced interrogation techniques,” like waterboarding. He also pressed Haspel on whether such techniques were justified and whether the methods resulted in any meaningful intelligence. 


Under dispute is Haspel’s direct role in the interrogation program and whether she was involved in the destruction of tapes containing evidence of the torture. The issue is sure to be a main focus of her confirmation hearings and could impede her eventual confirmation in the Senate. 


At least 50 votes are needed in order to advance her nomination. Republicans only hold 51 seats in the chamber, but will almost certainly need Democratic support to help confirm Haspel. 


McCain is currently in Arizona receiving treatment for brain cancer. The former Navy aviator was tortured by his captors after he was shot down during the Vietnam War.


Other Republicans have raised concerns about Haspel’s nomination. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has already indicated he will vote against her confirmation and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has raised questions similar to McCain’s. 


Little is publicly known about Haspel, a former CIA clandestine officer, but the agency has released some information on her past.


Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.