CIA director nominee Gina Haspel promised to defy presidential orders if she considered them immoral at a crucial Senate confirmation hearing Wednesday.
Appearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee amid a furor over her involvement with harsh interrogation methods, Haspel defended her moral compass even as she acknowledged that the country’s posture on torture had shifted since the post-9/11 years.
Haspel is the first woman to be nominated for CIA director and a rare career officer to be elevated to the post. But whether she will be confirmed will depend on whether she can win over some skeptical Democrats who are frustrated the spy agency won’t divulge more about her role in the George W. Bush-era program.
Here are some key moments from the confirmation hearing so far:
• Haspel vowed not to push the CIA to act in ways she considered immoral — even if the president ordered it. “I would not allow CIA to undertake activity that I thought was immoral, even if it was technically legal. I would absolutely not permit it,” she added, citing the guidelines listed in the Army field manual.
Pressed by Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) on whether she would follow an order by President Donald Trump that she found immoral, Haspel said she would not.
• Haspel pledged she would not restart the harsh interrogation program. In her opening statement, she cast her involvement in controversial interrogation techniques as part of a different era — from which the country has now moved on.
“I want to be clear: Having served in that tumultuous time [after 9/11], I can offer you my personal commitment clearly and without reservation that under my leadership, on my watch, CIA will not restart a detention and interrogation program,” she said. “CIA has learned some tough lessons from that experience.”
• Haspel defended her role in the destruction of tapes of waterboarding, a technique considered torture that Congress later outlawed. She oversaw a CIA facility in Thailand where two Al Qaeda suspects were waterboarded in 2002 — one before she arrived — and later pushed for tapes of the interrogations of one suspect to be destroyed.
Haspel said CIA officials undertook numerous reviews to ensure that disposing of the tapes would be legal and appropriate. She cast the destruction, which she called for upon the orders of a superior, as necessary to eliminate the security risk to officers who appeared on the tapes if they ever leaked, and she said she was advised that there was no legal requirement to retain the tapes.
She noted that a later review found “that my decisions were consistent with my obligations as an agency officer.”