Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Tuesday condemned President Trump’s decision to nominate Gina Haspel to become the director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), saying she was involved in “one of darkest chapters in American history.”
While he expressed confidence in current CIA Director Mike Pompeo’s ability to serve as secretary of State, an appointment Trump announced earlier Tuesday, McCain said in a statement that Haspel needs to explain her stance on torture.
“The torture of detainees in U.S. custody during the last decade was one of the darkest chapters in American history,” McCain said. “Ms. Haspel needs to explain the nature and extent of her involvement in the CIA’s interrogation program during the confirmation process.”
Following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the Bush administration “squandered precious moral authority” to get intelligence, McCain said.
Haspel joined the CIA in 1985 and faced scrutiny for her role surrounding waterboarding and other interrogation techniques used on detainees at a secret CIA prison in Thailand in 2002.
The American Civil Liberties Union said Haspel was “up to her eyeballs in torture, both in running a secret torture prison in Thailand and carrying out an order to cover up torture crimes by destroying videotapes.”
Progressive foreign policy groups are fighting back against her nomination, saying her direct role in the torture program should “disqualify her” from the position.
Pompeo committed himself to enforcing federal law on interrogation techniques during his confirmation hearing last year to become CIA director.
“Any nominee for Director of the CIA must pledge without reservation to uphold this prohibition, which has helped us regain our position of leadership in the struggle for universal human rights,” McCain said Tuesday.
McCain, who was tortured as a prisoner during in the Vietnam War, has sharply criticized Trump’s support of controversial interrogation policies like waterboarding.
“I know from personal experience that the abuse of prisoners will produce more bad than good,” McCain said in 2014.
Haspel was nominated to the top CIA position on Tuesday after Trump announced on Twitter that he was ousting Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and tapping Pompeo to take his post. If confirmed, Haspel will be the first woman to hold the position.