May 9, 2018
Foreign Policy for America is a non-partisan 501c4 organization founded to promote strong, principled American foreign policy. This year, we will publish our 115th Congress Congressional Scorecard, detailing the records of members of Congress on foreign policy related legislation. The Scorecard will be distributed to FP4A members, concerned voters nationwide, and the media.
Foreign Policy for America strongly opposes the confirmation of Gina Haspel for Director of the CIA, and we urge senators to vote against her confirmation. By voting against Ms. Haspel, you will send a strong signal that the United States remains committed to protecting human dignity and the rule of law, and demonstrate continued American rejection of torture and obstruction of justice.
We have been alarmed by the selective, piecemeal declassification of information about Ms. Haspel’s career at CIA and particularly her potential involvement in torture. Individual Senators expected to vote on her nomination – and the American people they represent – deserve a fuller understanding of President Trump’s nominee to head such a powerful and important agency.
The information that is in the public record is alarming and must be disqualifying if the U.S. is to reassert the principle that America does not torture. We know that Ms. Haspel had direct command responsibility over a black site in Thailand where torture was conducted. We know that she advocated for and participated in the destruction of evidence related to the CIA’s torture program.
Of equal concern, we know that President Trump has repeatedly advocated for the use of torture. On the campaign trail, he pledged to “bring back waterboarding, and a hell of a lot worse,” and stated his belief that “torture works.” On CBS’ Face the Nation, Mr. Trump rejected arguments against torture, saying: “We have to play the game the way they’re playing the game. You’re not going to win if we’re soft and they have no rules.” In 2017, the New York Times and the Washington Post published a draft Executive Order that would open the door to a reinitiation of the CIA’s so-called “enhanced interrogation” program. In January 2017, President Trump conceded that Secretary of Defense Mattis’ views, rejecting the use of enhanced interrogation techniques like waterboarding, would “override” Trump’s own support for those tactics.
It is imperative that both the Secretary of Defense and the Director of CIA continue to override the president’s views in this respect. The management decisions made by Ms. Haspel, which are at the heart of the CIA’s institutional failure during that dark period in its history, suggest, at best, that she is ill-suited for the task of standing up to President Trump’s worst impulses.
America has rejected torture throughout our great history. General George Washington set the precedent, after the Battle of Trenton in 1776, when he instructed his troops in how to treat prisoners they had taken: “Treat them with humanity, and let them have no reason to complain of our copying the brutal example of the British Army in their treatment of our unfortunate brethren who have fallen into their hands.” America’s commitment to international law has been a defining element of the liberal international order established in the wake of World War II. Countless national security leaders and scientists have provided their expert view that torture does not work. The practice of torture is not only ineffective, but it forces an impossible choice on our intelligence officers and service members: fidelity to core American values and international law or obedience to supervising authorities.
Senator John McCain, himself a survivor of torture, gave voice to this powerful ideal: “I know that such practices don’t work…. Our enemies act without conscience. We must not. Now, let us reassert the contrary proposition: that it is essential to our success in this war that we ask those who fight it for us to remember at all times that they are defending a sacred ideal of how nations should be governed and conduct their relations with others – even our enemies.”
The intelligence community has many experienced and qualified managers with no connection to the programs that the Senate has rightly condemned. To protect the honor of the United States and ensure that, in peace time and in war, these egregious practices are not repeated, we urge you to vote NO on the nomination of Gina Haspel to be Director of CIA.
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