May 9 (UPI) — Gina Haspel, President Donald Trump’s appointee to be the next director of central intelligence, began her confirmation in the Senate Wednesday morning — and faced tough questions about her involvement in past CIA interrogations.
Haspel, a 33-year veteran of the CIA, was tabbed by Trump to replace Mike Pompeo as agency chief after he succeeded Rex Tillerson as head of the State Department.
Last month, more than 100 retired generals and admirals wrote to members of the Senate expressing “profound concern” about Haspel’s nomination.
Another figure also apparently concerned about Haspel’s nomination is Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks who was captured in 2003 and repeatedly interrogated by the CIA.
His attorneys have asked a military judge for permission to introduce information about Haspel.
According Senate investigators, Mohammed was “waterboarded” 183 times, slapped, slammed into a wall, shackled into painful positions and sleep-deprived while forced to stand with his hands chained above his chest, The New York Times reported.
Internal CIA documents said Mohammed nearly drowned as a result of some of the waterboardings, a Senate intelligence committee study found in 2014.
“I would never allow the CIA to be allowed to be involved in corrosive interrogations,” Haspel said Wednesday when asked about the waterboarding technique, and if she felt it’s morally acceptable.
Mohammed’s lawyer, Marine Lt. Col. Derek A. Poteet, said he wasn’t sure if the additional information will make it into the confirmation process.
A CIA spokesman told the Times he couldn’t say whether Haspel was ever involved in Mohammed’s interrogations.
Haspel, 61, joined the CIA in 1985 and spent most of her career as a clandestine operative. She has served as deputy CIA director since last year and acting director since April 26. For a few weeks in 2013, she was the agency’s acting director of the National Clandestine Service under President Barack Obama.
If confirmed, Haspel would become the CIA’s first permanent female director.