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Gates: Haspel's ties to enhanced interrogation don't disqualify her from leading CIA

Gates: Haspel's ties to enhanced interrogation don't disqualify her from leading CIA
© Greg Nash

Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said Sunday he doesn't believe Gina Haspel's ties to an enhanced interrogation program that used methods now widely regarded as torture disqualifies her from serving as CIA director.

"I worry about presentism. I think you have to go back to 2001, 2002, and the horror that people in the administration felt, getting reports literally every day that Washington or New York were going to be attacked again," Gates said on CBS's "Face the Nation."

Haspel, President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump to fundraise for 3 Republicans running for open seats: report Trump to nominate former Monsanto exec to top Interior position White House aides hadn’t heard of Trump's new tax cut: report MORE's pick to lead the CIA, is in the midst of a tenuous confirmation battle. Most Democrats have said they will vote against her nomination because of her role in overseeing the enhanced interrogation program during the George W. Bush administration and the subsequent destruction of tapes documenting interrogations at a CIA black site.

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Gates defended Haspel after Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainTrump: 'You know what I am? I'm a nationalist' Graham on Saudi Arabia: 'I feel completely betrayed' Meghan McCain calls Russian attacks against her father the 'highest compliment' to her family MORE (R-Ariz.) said in a statement last week that "her refusal to acknowledge torture's immorality is disqualifying." McCain, who was tortured as a prisoner during the Vietnam War, urged the Senate to reject her nomination.

"Only with the retrospect of 17 years of no foreign-based major attack taking place again, can we go back and revisit these things," Gates said Sunday.

"By all accounts, [Haspel's] had an extraordinary career, a very distinguished career, has really served her country well," Gates said. "And I think to say she should not be director of CIA today, in the absence of any evidence she did anything wrong fifteen or so years ago, I think is a mistake."

Despite initial concerns over whether she'd be confirmed, Haspel’s confirmation appears to be on solid ground following endorsements from a pair of red-state Democrats.

Sens. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinElection Countdown: Takeaways from heated Florida governor's debate | DNC chief pushes back on 'blue wave' talk | Manchin faces progressive backlash | Trump heads to Houston rally | Obama in Las Vegas | Signs of huge midterm turnout The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by PhRMA — Early ballots pouring in with 15 days to the midterms Manchin wrestles with progressive backlash in West Virginia MORE (D-W.Va.) and Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyDemocrats slide in battle for Senate Conservatives bankrolled and dominated Kavanaugh confirmation media campaign Donnelly parodies 'Veep' in new campaign ad MORE (D-Ind.) have, in recent days, said they will vote for Haspel’s confirmation.