Senator Mark Warner (D-Virginia) is officially on board supporting the confirmation of Gina Haspel for CIA Director. This will all but ensure her confirmation.
Haspel, who became acting CIA Director after former CIA Director Mike Pompeo was confirmed as Secretary of State, is perhaps best known for her role in running a CIA “black site” in Thailand. In a March 2018 op-ed for Politico, Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) cited a former CIA interrogator’s comments on Haspel as “one of the architects, designers, implementers, and one of the two top managers of [CIA torture]” as his reason for not supporting Haspel’s confirmation. However, the acting CIA director appears to be on track for confirmation following a statement issued on Tuesday by Sen. Warner’s office:
“Over the last year I’ve had the opportunity to work with Ms. Haspel in her role as Deputy Director, and I have always found her to be professional and forthright with the Intelligence Committee,” Sen. Warner stated. “Most importantly, I believe she is someone who can and will stand up to the President if ordered to do something illegal or immoral — like a return to torture.”
Warner’s announcement of support for Haspel is a stunning breakthrough for the acting CIA director, who has been plagued by torture accusations in relation to her role running the black site in Thailand. Last week, Fatima Boudchar — a pregnant woman living in exile in Southeast Asia who was detained at the black site Haspel ran — wrote a harrowing essay for the New York Times detailing her torture at the hands of CIA interrogators in 2004:
I have no idea how long I was in the Thai secret prison because no one would let me sleep. The cell was white and stark, with nothing in it but a camera and hooks on the wall. The masked abductors were waiting. I was terrified. They chained me to the hooks. Because I was midway through my pregnancy, I could barely move or sit.
Some of what they did to me in that prison was so awful I can’t talk about it. They hit me in the abdomen just where the baby was. To move me, they bound me to a stretcher from head to toe, like a mummy. I was sure I would shortly be killed.
For the rendition flight to Libya, I was taped to a stretcher again. The tape caught the corner of my eye. It stayed that way, my eye taped open, tears streaming down my face, for more than 14 hours.
While the details of whether or not Haspel personally participated in the torture of detainees are murky, she was complicit in destroying video evidence of CIA torture in a document known as the “Durham report.” Yesterday, Senator Martin Heinrich (D-New Mexico) tweeted a letter he sent — which was co-signed by several other Senate Democrats — calling on the agency to release the full uncensored version of the Durham report to senators who will vote on Haspel’s confirmation, prior to the vote itself.
“We strongly urge that the Justice Department immediately permit all senators to review the Durham report without redactions,” Sen. Heinrich wrote. “While it may not be typical practice to make such materials available outside the Department, we do not believe these are typical circumstances.”
— Martin Heinrich (@MartinHeinrich) May 14, 2018
Sen. Warner joins conservative Democrat Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) as Democratic senators supporting President Trump’s pick to head the CIA. The Senate Intelligence Committee will vote on Gina Haspel’s confirmation on Wednesday, with a full Senate vote to follow assuming the committee’s approval.
Michael Boone is a freelance journalist and columnist writing about politics, government, race, and media. He graduated from Texas Southern University’s School of Communication, and lives in Houston’s Third Ward.