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Letter Signed by Dozens of Virginia Officials, Activists Urges NO Votes on Gina Haspel for CIA Director


As far as I’m concerned, if you in any way participated in torture – and yes, “‘waterboarding’ IS torture, obviously! – whether as an active participant or as an official who oversaw it, approved it, justified it, etc., you should probably be facing a long prison sentence for war crimes. You most certainly should NOT be up for a high-level government position, that’s for damn sure. Yet somehow, a person (Gina Haspel) who “overs[aw] a secret prison in Thailand” in which an Al Qaeda suspect was “waterboarded…three times and subjected…to brutal interrogation techniques” is up for Senate confirmation as CIA Director. As if that’s not despicable and disqualifying enough, Haspel also “was instrumental in the destruction of the videos of the black site waterboarding sessions—against the advice of superiors in the Bush administration.” Horrible.

So again, why is Haspel up for a high-level government position, as opposed to (let’s say) being on trial for war crimes? It’s truly mind boggling. With that  introduction, check out the following letter from Yasmine Taeb, Senior Policy Counsel at The Center for Victims of Torture, urging Senators Warner and Kaine to oppose Haspel’s nomination. The letter is signed by dozens of Virginia elected officials (great list; I wish there were even more!), faith leaders, Democratic officials, progressive leaders, candidates, etc. I strongly endorse the letter myself, and urge every single member of the Senate to oppose Haspel’s nomination, if for no other reason than to send a clear and resounding signal that human rights abuses are NOT acceptable to the United States of America.


Senator Mark Warner
703 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510  

Senator Tim Kaine
231 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Senators Warner and Kaine:

We, the undersigned Virginia elected officials and leaders from the progressive and faith communities are deeply opposed to the confirmation of Gina Haspel as the next director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

Ms. Haspel is credibly reported to have played a prominent role in President George W. Bush’s covert torture program. In addition to Ms. Haspel’s intimate involvement with the torture program, she is credibly reported to have been deeply complicit in the destruction of videotapes recording the horrors the program produced.

Ms. Haspel’s defenders excuse her participation in torture by arguing that she was simply “following orders.” Not only is that excuse insufficient on its face, but it is also deeply disquieting given the administration Ms. Haspel is being nominated to join—led by a President who has openly endorsed torture. One can scarcely imagine the range of dangerous orders the next CIA director could be given, especially in the aftermath of a crisis. Why wouldn’t we expect her dutifully to follow those orders as well?

Ms. Haspel is being considered for a promotion, to lead and represent publicly one of the most powerful (and secretive) agencies in our government. At minimum, her participation in this disgraceful program, which was one of the darkest chapters in our country’s history, should disqualify her from that privilege. Endorsing Ms. Haspel would reward torture, and send a disastrous message the world over-–including to survivors of torture—that there is no accountability whatsoever for those who commit these grave human rights violations.

Put simply, this vote will be seen as a referendum on torture. We strongly urge you to vote No on the confirmation of Gina Haspel.


Yasmine Taeb, Virginia DNC Committeewoman; Senior Policy Counsel, The Center for Victims of Torture

Delegate Mark Levine, 45th House District
Delegate Patrick Hope, 47th House District
Delegate Sam Rasoul, 11th House District  
Delegate Marcus Simon, 53rd House District
Delegate Mark Keam, 35th House District
Delegate John Bell, 87th House District
Delegate Elizabeth Guzman, 31st House District
Delegate Hala Ayala, 51st House District
Delegate Kathy Tran, 42nd House District
Delegate Lee Carter, 50th House District
Delegate Rip Sullivan, 48th House District

Katie Cristol, Chair, Arlington County Board  
Koran T. Saines, Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Member (Sterling)

Gaylene Kanoyton, 1st Vice Chair, Democratic Party of Virginia
Zachary Pruckowski, Chair, 10th Democratic Congressional District
Kenny Allen Boddye, Chairman, Occoquan District Democratic Committee   
Gordon Simonett, Chairman, Fairfax County Democrats (Hunter Mill District)
Kip Malinosky, Fmr. Chair, Arlington County Democratic Committee
Peg Willingham, Chair, Falls Church City Democratic Committee
Al Durante, Fmr. Democratic nominee for 54th House District; Fmr. Chair, Spotsylvania Democratic Committee
Maggie Davis, Deputy Chair, Arlington County Democratic Committee; Fmr. President, Arlington Young Democrats  
Randy Ihara, Fmr. Vice Chair, Loudoun County Democratic Committee; Co-Chair, Loudoun Progressives
Dewita Soeharjono, Chair, Democratic Party of Virginia Asian American Caucus
Gene Rossi, Fmr. Democratic candidate, Virginia Lt. Governor; Fmr. Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia
Tim Buchholz, Fmr. Chair, Loudoun County Democratic Committee

Nihad Awad, National Executive Director, Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)
Rabbi Michael Knopf, Member of the international Rabbinical Assembly and the Richmond Rabbinical Association
Rev. Linda Higgins, St. John’s United Church of Christ, Richmond  
Rev. Beth Miller, Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington
Imam Johari Abdul-Malik, Fmr. Director of Outreach at Dar Al Hijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church; Board Member, Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington
Rev. Sherman Z. Logan, Executive Minister, First Unitarian Universalist Church of Richmond  
Omar Baddar, Deputy Director, Arab American Institute
Jamal Abdi, Vice President for Policy, National Iranian American Council
Jason L. Miller, Director of Campaigns and Development, Franciscan Action Network
Hoda Hawa, Director of Policy and Advocacy, Muslim Public Affairs Council
Rev. Mandy England Cole, Pastor, Ginter Park Baptist Church, Richmond  

Jennifer Lewis, Democratic candidate, 6th Congressional District
Edwin Santana, Democratic candidate, 1st Congressional District
Kellen Squire, Fmr. Democratic nominee for 58th House District
Brent Finnegan, Fmr. Democratic nominee for 26th House District
Donte Tanner, Fmr. Democratic nominee for 40th House District

Stephen Spitz, Virginia Coordinator, Progressive Democrats of America
Julie Emery, Executive Director, Virginia Civic Engagement Table
Jason Rylander, Member of the 8th Congressional Democratic Committee; Communications Director, Arlington County Democratic Committee  
Nancy Frowert, Democratic Party of Virginia 7th Congressional District Central Committee Member; Outreach Chair, 7th Congressional District Democratic Committee  
Monica Thomas, Democratic Party of Virginia 6th Congressional District Central Committee Member
Josh Stanfield, Executive Director, Activate Virginia
Boyd Walker, Alexandria Democratic Committee Resolutions Chair
Jonathan Sokolow, attorney and community activist, Reston  
Marc Beallor, Arlington County Democratic Committee Secretary
Praveen Meyyan, Vice President, Democratic Party of Virginia Asian American Caucus
Graham Weinschenk, Secretary, Virginia Young Democrats


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