CIA Director Nominee: ‘I Would Not Restart Under Any Circumstances an Interrogation Program at CIA’

By Melanie Arter | May 9, 2018 | 12:02pm EDT
CIA Director Nominee Gina Haspel (Screenshot)

( - During her confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee, CIA Director Nominee Gina Haspel said Wednesday that she would not restart any interrogation program at the CIA.

“I would not restart under any circumstances an interrogation program at CIA - under any circumstances,” Haspel told the committee under questioning from Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.).

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) initially asked Haspel whether she would waterboard a high value terrorism suspect if President Donald Trump gave her a direct order.

“I do not believe the president would ask me to do that, but we have today in the U.S. government, other U.S. government entities that conduct interrogations. DoD uses the Army Field Manual, and they conduct battlefield interrogations, and CIA has incredible expertise it can bring to the table in support of those interrogations,” Haspel said.

“The FBI has its authorities to conduct interrogations, and as you know, we have the High Value Interrogation group, so I would be advise anyone who asked me about it that CIA is not the right place to conduct interrogations. We don’t have interrogators, and we don’t have interrogation expertise,” she said.

“So I believe that that would be-- the reason I have been nominated is because people have some respect for my views on these issues. My experiences during those days after 9/11 inform my views. I’m extremely knowledgeable, and I’m also extremely knowledgeable about the price CIA working level men and women out in the trenches paid for decisions made after 9/11,” Haspel added.

“So debriefing a source is very different from interrogating a detainee. Should the CIA even be in the business of interrogating detainees?” Collins asked.

“We’re not in the business of interrogating detainees. As you just said, there’s a big difference between interrogation and simple question and answer. Having access, direct access to a terrorist is extremely valuable for intelligence collection, and we do that, but CIA does not today conduct interrogations. We never did historically, and we’re not getting back in that business,” Haspel replied.

Heinrich followed up by asking: “Ms. Haspel, you didn’t actually answer the question. What would you do if the president ordered you to get back in that business?”

“Senator, the president has selected me to give him advice. I would not restart under any circumstances an interrogation program at CIA - under any circumstances,” Haspel replied.

Haspel was a deputy group chief at the time that the CIA’s interrogations was created.

“That’s pretty far down the totem pole in a program that had nothing to do with the detention and interrogation program,” she said.

Haspel said she “was not read into the program until about a year into its existence.”

When asked what her reaction was when she learned of the enhanced interrogation program, Haspel said, “Senator, it was a new subject for me. As I said, we lacked interrogation expertise at the agency. We didn’t have interrogators.

“I was told that interrogation experts had designed the program, that the highest legal authority in the United States had approved it, and that the president of the United States had approved it as well as the trusted leadership at the Central Intelligence Agency,” she added.

When asked how her views of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation program evolved in the years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Haspel said, “Senator, they have. I think it’s very important. I think for any leader as you go through a career, you have to learn the leadership lessons.

“I’m not going to sit here with the benefit of hindsight and judge the very good people who made hard decisions who running the agency in very extraordinary circumstances at the time,” she said.

“But as I mentioned to Senator Warner, this country has had the opportunity to reflect, because we have some space. We’re not fearing another attack, and we have deliberated about the standard we want to use in interrogations, and that is the Army Field Manual,” Haspel added.

She said the CIA followed the law at the time of the interrogation program’s inception, “and we follow the law now, but I would never permit CIA to resume an interrogation program.”


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