April 24 (UPI) — More than 100 retired U.S. military leaders are voicing their concerns about President Donald Trump’s appointment of Gina Haspel as CIA director.
In a letter to members of the Senate, 109 retired generals and admirals expressed “profound concern” about the president’s naming Haspel to the post — largely due to reports of her involvement in torture programs at the spy agency.
“We are deeply troubled by the prospect of someone who appears to have been intimately involved in torture being elevated to one of the most important positions of leadership in the intelligence community,” the letter stated.
“It would send a terrible signal to confirm as the next Director of the CIA someone who was so intimately involved in this dark chapter of our nation’s history.”
Haspel, nominated last month to succeed Mike Pompeo at the CIA, would become the agency’s first female chief. She faces a Senate confirmation hearing next month.
The 33-year veteran joined the CIA in 1985 and is believed by some to have been involved in secret torture programs intended to break suspected terrorists during interrogations.
The New Yorker reported last month that in 2002, Haspel oversaw the interrogations of suspects Abu Zubayadah and Abd al Rahim al-Nashiri. The report said Zubayadah was subjected to 83 rounds of waterboarding and had his head slammed into walls. By the time interrogators realized he had no useful information to divulge, Zubayadah had lost sight in his left eye.
Some of the interrogations were recorded on video.
“Ms. Haspel also appears to have strongly advocated for and played a key role in carrying out an order to destroy 92 videotapes of individuals in U.S. custody being subjected to torture,” the former leaders said in their letter. “This disregard for lawful checks on the CIA’s power is troubling.”
Although some lawmakers have already spoken out against Haspel’s nomination, it is unclear how many will vote.
Last week, Democratic Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Dianne Feinstein of California, both members of the intelligence committee, criticized the CIA for selectively releasing information about Haspel.
“It’s completely unacceptable for the CIA to declassify only material that’s favorable to Gina Haspel, while at the same time stonewalling our efforts to declassify all documents related her involvement in the torture program,” Feinstein said.
Last month, Sen. John McCain, who was tortured as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, also wrote a letter demanding a “detailed account” of Haspel’s role in the CIA’s interrogation program.
Lawmakers might ask Haspel at her public hearing May 9 to bar the use of waterboarding and other techniques now considered to be torturous. She may also be asked to express remorse for her role in the torture program.