Haspel faces stiff opposition, and for good reason.
Ninety of the signatures are from former U.S. ambassadors, and the others are from other former U.S. diplomats. The group contains officials who were nominated by and served presidents of both political parties, all of whom agree that Haspel’s participation in torture during the Bush administration disqualifies her.
“What we do know, based on credible, and as yet uncontested reporting, leaves us of the view that she should be disqualified from holding cabinet rank,” the diplomats said. “This includes that, in 2002, she oversaw a secret detention facility in Thailand in which at least one detainee was repeatedly subjected to waterboarding, and that she later strongly advocated for and helped implement a decision to destroy video tapes of torture sessions, including ones she oversaw.”
In excerpts of Haspel’s prepared testimony, she calls the Bush era torture regine a “tumultuous time,” and makes the weak promise that “under my leadership CIA will not restart such a detention and interrogation program.”
But even a wholesale rejection of torture (which her opening statement is not) would fail to make her nomination acceptable, the group of diplomats writes.
“Whether or not she uses the opportunity of her confirmation hearing to reject torture—which we hope she will do—the point will remain that her record of involvement in torture was judged worthy of and compatible with holding the CIA’s highest office,” the letter says. “The message inherent in this decision will be understood by authoritarian leaders around the world. They will welcome it, as it will allow them to proclaim, however cynically, that their behavior is no different from ours.”
The letter has been sent to the U.S. Senate in advance of Haspel’s testimony Wednesday morning, and clearly illustrates the difficulty she faces in being confirmed. New revelations about her support for Bush-era torture concerned the White House enough to call her in for “urgent” meetings last weekend.
And if Haspel’s confirmation depends on a rejection of torture, she will have a hard time explaining away Trump’s explicit praise for her participation in it just a few days ago.