San Francisco (AFP) – US Senator John McCain called Wednesday for lawmakers to reject Gina Haspel’s nomination to head the CIA due to the role she played overseeing the torture of detainees.
Senate Armed Services Committee chair McCain, who was tortured while being held prisoner in North Vietnam, is battling brain cancer and is unlikely to vote on Haspel’s nomination, but is a widely-respected elder statesman in US politics whose views carry significant weight.
“Ms Haspel’s role in overseeing the use of torture by Americans is disturbing. Her refusal to acknowledge torture’s immorality is disqualifying. I believe the Senate should exercise its duty of advice and consent and reject this nomination,” McCain said in a statement.
From 2001-2004, Haspel was a deputy group chief of the Counterterrorism Center, which ran the so-called “enhanced interrogation” program, and then chief of staff to Jose Rodriguez, who directed the program.
During part of that period, she oversaw the CIA’s secret prison in Bangkok, where Al-Qaeda suspects Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri were repeatedly waterboarded during lengthy interrogations.
McCain, a navy pilot, was shot down over North Vietnam in 1967.
Taken prisoner, his severe injuries weren’t treated and he was repeatedly bound and beaten. He was not released until 1973.