McCain asks Trump's CIA pick to explain ties to torture
© Greg Nash

Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainDole to lie in state in Capitol Rotunda Bob Dole: A great leader of the 'Greatest Generation' The bully who pulls the levers of Trump's mind never learns MORE (R-Ariz.), who was tortured as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, is asking President TrumpDonald TrumpMan sentenced to nearly four years for running scam Trump, Biden PACs Meadows says Trump's blood oxygen level was dangerously low when he had COVID-19 Trump endorses David Perdue in Georgia's governor race MORE's pick to lead the CIA about her role in an enhanced interrogation program.  

CIA Deputy Director Gina Haspel has come under fire because of her role in the George W. Bush administration's use of “enhanced interrogation techniques" — critics call it torture — in the post-9/11 era, including her role in interrogations at a so-called black site prison and the destruction of videotapes documenting the waterboarding sessions of an al Qaeda suspect there.

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McCain sent a letter to Haspel asking for "clarification in writing on several matters that are essential" to the Senate's consideration of her nomination to succeed CIA Director Mike PompeoMike PompeoHaley has 'positive' meeting with Trump No time for the timid: The dual threats of progressives and Trump Psaki: Sexism contributes to some criticism of Harris MORE as the country's top spy. 

"Over the course of your career with the intelligence community, you have served in positions of responsibility that have intersected with the CIA’s program of so-called 'enhanced interrogation techniques,'" McCain wrote in the letter. 

"We now know that these techniques not only failed to deliver actionable intelligence, but actually produced false and misleading information. Most importantly, the use of torture compromised our values, stained our national honor, and threatened our historical reputation," he said. 

McCain detailed a slate of questions he wants Haspel to respond to by April 2, including providing a "detailed account" of her role in the CIA's interrogation program and her involvement at black sites.

"Did you ever impose, direct, or oversee the use of 'enhanced interrogation techniques,' including the use of waterboarding?" McCain asked. 

He also wants to know if she was in a position to stop or prevent the use of enhanced interrogation techniques and what her personal views were at the time on the measures as well as what her views are currently. 

In 2005, Haspel reportedly played a role in a decision to destroy videotapes documenting interrogations. The destruction of the tapes was ordered by Jose Rodriguez, then head of the agency’s clandestine service — but Haspel, at the time his chief of staff, was reportedly a strong advocate for the choice. 

The Justice Department investigated the destruction of the tapes, but no charges were filed.

McCain is asking Haspel to provide details of the incident. He wants to know if she advocated the destruction of tapes, if she asked to destroy "other material containing potential evidence of the torture" and if she directed anyone else to destroy tapes or other evidence.

McCain, in his letter, noted that Congress has outlawed torture. The Senate voted in 2015 to ban the U.S. from subjecting prisoners to waterboarding and other brutal interrogation practices. 

The amendment, included in a mammoth defense bill, limited the entire U.S. government to the interrogation and detention techniques outlined in the Army Field Manual.

McCain's letter comes as Haspel faces a potentially tough path to confirmation for her CIA appointment. 

Republicans hold a 51-seat majority in the Senate. Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulRand Paul: Chris Cuomo firing 'a small step toward CNN regaining any credibility' GOP anger with Fauci rises Congress's goal in December: Avoid shutdown and default MORE (R-Ky.) has said he will oppose her, potentially leaving GOP leadership with just the 50 votes needed to let Vice President Pence break a tie so long as the rest of the caucus supports her.

McCain has been absent from the Senate for months undergoing treatment for brain cancer, and his support for her nomination is not guaranteed. 

"Ms. Haspel needs to explain the nature and extent of her involvement in the CIA’s interrogation program during the confirmation process," he said in a statement earlier this month.

No Democrat has yet said they would support Haspel's nomination, and several progressives have come out in opposition.