Sen. Martin Heinrich pressed Gina Haspel, President Donald Trump’s pick to replace Mike Pompeo as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), about her “moral compass” at Haspel’s Wednesday Senate confirmation hearing.
In a hearing that overwhelmingly focused on Haspel’s involvement in the implementation of the Bush adminsitration’s “enhanced interrogation” programs, Heinrich sought to separate the legal justifications given at the time and the political decisions to abandon the techniques described as “torture” from Haspel’s own moral convictions.
Haspel, who was not involved in the decision to implement the techniques, vigorously defended her claim to a clear moral conscience. Her initial responses did not satisfy Heinrich, who suggested she was talking about Congress, not her own moral code, despite her reiterating her insistence she would not continence a return to “coercive interrogations” in her tenure.
“Where was that moral compass at the time?” Heinrich pressed, to which Haspel began:
Senator, that was 17 years ago. CIA, like the U.S. Army and the U.S. Marine Corps, is an organization, it’s a large bureaucracy, and when you’re out in the trenches in far-flung outposts in the globe, and Washington says, “Here’s what we need you to do, this is legal, the attorney general has deemed it so the President of the United States is counting on you to prevent another attack…
Heinrich cut Haspel off, chiding her, “I know you believed it was legal. I want to see, I want to feel, I want to trust that you have the moral compass that you said you have. You’re giving very legalistic answers to very fundamentally moral questions.”
“We’ve provided the committee every evaluation since my training report when I first joined in 1985. In all of my assignments, I have conducted myself honorably and in accordance with U.S. law,” Haspel responded. “My parents raised me right. I know the difference between right and wrong.”
Heinrich and his Democratic colleagues spent the bulk of their questioning pressing Haspel on her involvement in the CIA’s interrogations of terror suspects abroad in the period immediately following the September 11 terror attacks, particularly as to her handling of video recordings related to the program. The actions of the CIA were justified in a series of memos by Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo and promulgated with the authority of President George W. Bush’s Office of Legal Counsel.