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Third Dem urges removal of Trump's pick for top CIA deputy

Third Dem urges removal of Trump's pick for top CIA deputy
© Greg Nash

A third Democrat is joining a pair of Intelligence Committee senators in urging the administration to withdraw President Trump’s pick for the number two slot at the CIA, over reports that she was involved with the agency’s clandestine torture program.

“I am especially concerned by reports that this individual was involved in the unauthorized destruction of CIA interrogation videotapes, which documented the CIA’s use of torture against two CIA detainees,” Sen. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseSenate Dems ask Trump to disclose financial ties to Saudi Arabia Democrats won’t let Kavanaugh debate die Senate poised to confirm Kavanaugh after bitter fight MORE (D-R.I.) said in a Tuesday letter to CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

“My colleagues Senators [Ron] Wyden (D-Ore.) and [Martin] Heinrich (D-N.M.) have stated that classified information details why the newly appointed Deputy Director is ‘unsuitable’ for the position and have requested that this information be declassified. I join their request.”

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Trump’s pick of 30-year veteran Gina Haspel to serve as deputy director of the CIA — which is not a Senate-confirmable position — has reinvigorated fears that the administration is weighing a return to the use of banned techniques now considered torture, such as waterboarding and sleep deprivation.

As a clandestine officer, Haspel oversaw the brutal interrogation of two terrorism suspects at a black site in Thailand — and then later played a role in the destruction of video tapes documenting the harsh treatment of the detainees, according to multiple reports.

In 2013, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) reportedly blocked her promotion to head the agency’s clandestine service over her role in the program.

Within the agency, Haspel appears relatively uncontroversial. She has a weighty resume in the agency’s directorate of operations and a ringing list of testimonials from former intelligence officials.

Given that resume, it would have been impossible for her to avoid some involvement with the program, former officials say. Some see the pick as a sign that Pompeo is trying to boost morale by choosing a career officer for the post. 

But for wary Democrats who were already concerned about the White House stance on torture, Haspel is a confirmation of their worst fears.

Trump has repeatedly argued that torture “works.”

Lawmakers repeatedly pressed Pompeo on his stance on torture during his confirmation hearing — although many were dissatisfied with his answer.

The former Republican congressman vowed to abide by the law, but said that he would consult with CIA experts to determine whether the currently legal methods are sufficient and work with experts to offer recommendations to make changes if they aren’t.

“You testified during confirmation hearings that you understood legal prohibitions against torture and would ‘absolutely not’ comply with orders to re-authorize the use of such measures. I voted to confirm your appointment as CIA Director on the basis of these assurances,” Whitehouse wrote.