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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 TrumpAppeals court OKs White House diverting military funding to border wall construction Pentagon: Tentative meeting between spy agencies, Biden transition set for early next week Conservative policy director calls Section 230 repeal an 'existential threat' for tech 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 McCainChoking — not cheating — was Trump's undoing Gabby Giffords congratulates Mark Kelly with throwback photo of her own swearing-in McConnell in tough position as House eyes earmark return 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) ManchinSmall businesses don't need another stimulus — they need customers Congress faces late-year logjam Funding bill hits snag as shutdown deadline looms MORE (D-W.Va.) and Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyBiden and Schumer face battles with left if Democrats win big Harris walks fine line on Barrett as election nears The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by JobsOhio - Showdown: Trump-Biden debate likely to be nasty MORE (D-Ind.) have, in recent days, said they will vote for Haspel’s confirmation.