Feinstein not satisfied by Haspel’s responses on interrogation tactics

Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinDemocrats question if Kavanaugh lied about work on terrorism policy Dems urge tech companies to remove 3D-gun blueprints Progressives fume as Dems meet with Brett Kavanaugh MORE (D-Calif.) suggested on Wednesday that Gina Haspel, President TrumpDonald John TrumpWhite House counsel called Trump 'King Kong' behind his back: report Trump stays out of Arizona's ugly and costly GOP fight Trump claims he instructed White House counsel to cooperate with Mueller MORE's pick to lead the CIA, did little to convince her that she had sufficiently distanced herself from the agency's controversial interrogation program.

Feinstein's comments came after Haspel, the CIA's current acting director, told lawmakers in her confirmation hearing that she would not reimplement the brutal interrogation techniques used on terror suspects in the years after the Sept. 11 attacks, even if ordered to do so by the president

But Feinstein, who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, told reporters that Haspel did not respond directly to questions about whether she would obey such an order. 

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"If she were asked for the agency, by the president, to do something which was considered wrong and illegal, would she just refuse to do it?" Feinstein asked. "She didn’t answer that question directly."

Feinstein said that torture had always been outlawed, waving off legal justifications for the interrogation program cited by Haspel during her public hearing on Wednesday.

Haspel has faced questions – mostly from Democratic lawmakers – about her ties to the interrogation program, particularly stemming from her time overseeing a black site facility in Thailand, where a suspected al-Qaeda operative was waterboarded repeatedly.

She sought to distance herself from that program on Wednesday, saying that she had evolved on the issue. She also disputed a claim that she had run the CIA's interrogation department. 

Haspel vowed to not restart the controversial program if confirmed as CIA director, and said that the agency would continue to abide by the Army Field Manual's guidance on interrogations.

"I support the law, I wouldn’t support a change in the law," she said. "But I’ll tell you this, I would not put CIA officers at risk by asking them to undertake risky, controversial activity again."

Haspel faces a tight confirmation battle in the Senate, and whether or not she wins approval to lead the agency depends largely on what support she can win from Democrats.

Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulHillicon Valley: Trump escalates feud with intel critics | Tesla shares fall after troubling Musk interview | House panel considers subpoena for Twitter's Jack Dorsey | Why Turkish citizens are breaking their iPhones Overnight Defense: Trump cancels military parade, blames DC for cost | DC mayor hits back | Pentagon warns China 'likely' training for strikes against US | Turkey refuses to release US pastor On Russia we need diplomacy, not just sanctions MORE (R-Ky.) has already come out against her nomination, and the continued absence of Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainThe Hill's 12:30 Report Senate gets to work in August — but many don’t show up Rand Paul’s Russia visit displays advancement of peace through diplomacy MORE (R-Ariz.), who is battling cancer, means that she will need to pick up some Democratic support to be confirmed.