Home Mark Warner Sen. Mark Warner to Gina Haspel: “What I am not willing to...

Sen. Mark Warner to Gina Haspel: “What I am not willing to do…is to justify this dark period in our history or to sweep away the decision to engage in torture.”

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See below for video and a transcript of Sen. Mark Warner’s prepared remarks at the Senate Intel Committee confirmation hearing on Gina Haspel for CIA director. My view is that anyone involved in torture, which is against U.S. law and also a war crime, not only shouldn’t be holding high U.S. government positions, but should be prosecuted for said crimes.

Below are Vice Chairman Warner’s opening remarks as prepared for delivery: 

The position of Director of the Central Intelligence Agency is one of the most important in our government. The CIA Director serves as a key figure in our intelligence community. 

He, or she, leads the premiere human intelligence agency in the world, the largest all-source analysis work force in the intelligence community. The CIA Director is responsible for providing the intelligence that informs policymakers working on every major national security and foreign policy problem facing the United States. 

As former Director Pompeo’s recent trip to North Korea demonstrated, the Director can also be tasked with unusual diplomatic missions. Directors represent the face of the U.S. intelligence community to the entire world, and they should be qualified for that task. 

Gina Haspel is among the most experienced people to be nominated for the position of the Director of Central Intelligence. While I remain disappointed that the Agency was not more forthcoming in providing and declassifying information about her service, she has served our nation for 33 years, in a variety of roles all over the world. I also understand that Ms. Haspel is the first operations officer in more than five decades who has been nominated to lead the Agency, and that she enjoys broad support within its workforce. 

But many people – and I include myself in that number – have questions about the message the Senate would be sending by confirming someone for this position who served as a supervisor in the Counter Terrorism Center during the time of the Rendition, Detention, and Interrogation program. 

Ms. Haspel has acknowledged the history of the program. She has stated that the law has changed and that the RDI program is no longer legal. She has committed to upholding the law. 

I appreciate that, but it is not enough. The secrecy inherent in the CIA’s work demands that the Director honor and follow the law – particularly in the dark spaces where the IC often operates, and when the glaring light of public scrutiny is nonexistent. No one should get credit simply for agreeing to follow the law—that’s the very least we should expect from any nominee, and certainly from the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. 

There are those in this chamber who have argued that no one who participated in the RDI program should ever be promoted. While I have expressed, on many occasions, my own objections to the RDI program, I think we have to recognize that the country had just been attacked. People throughout the government were frightened of more imminent attacks and didn’t know what to do, and the RDI program was absolutely an outgrowth of that fear. There are many at the Agency who participated in the program who believed that what they were doing was both legal and authorized by the then-President. 

What I am not willing to do, however, is to justify this dark period in our history or to sweep away the decision to engage in torture. I believe the RDI program was wrong and we need to make sure that it never happens again. 

Ms. Haspel, what the Committee must hear is your own view of the RDI program today, given the benefit of time and hindsight. Should the United States ever permit detainees to be treated the way the CIA treated detainees under the program – even if you believe it was technically “legal”? Most importantly, in your view – was the program consistent with American values?

 

We must hear how you would react if the president asks you to carry out some morally questionable behavior that might seem to violate a law or treaty. How will you respond if a secret DOJ opinion authorizes such behavior and gives you a “get out of jail free” card? On that day, if you are ordered to take actions that are inconsistent with American values, will you say “yes” and follow orders? Will you keep Congress in the dark?

 

Ms. Haspel, I encourage you to take these issues seriously and to address them at length. My vote on your confirmation will be greatly influenced by how you address these questions today.

 

I know the Committee – and I in particular – will want to hear about your interaction with respect to the 2005 decision to destroy the CIA interrogation tapes. What role did you play? And, if given the chance, would you do it again?

 

In the same vein, I would like to know your views from that time on informing Congressional leadership. Given the necessary secrecy of the Agency’s activities, it is fundamental to our system of checks and balances that you be extremely forthcoming with this Committee, with the Chairman and with me. I expect you to look for reasons to read us in, rather than look for excuses to keep us out of the loop.  

 

Ms. Haspel, you should consider carefully how you might deal with morally questionable requests in the future. If confirmed, you will face a White House and, frankly, a President who does not always seem interested in hearing, much less speaking, the truth. This President seems incapable or unwilling to accept facts that might contradict his views or his policy preferences. Indeed, there have been those in the Administration – even some of the President’s own appointees – who have been attacked for telling a truth in public that contradicts the White House narrative. You simply cannot allow the prospects of such attacks to dissuade you in any way.

 

I am interested to know how you view your relationship with the President and how you will approach engaging him. We have seen, on many occasions, that this President has no qualms about completely circumventing members of his own Administration, even when making policy that falls within their agencies’ jurisdiction. Do you believe you’ll be in the room when it matters? And if you’re in the room, will the President listen when you tell him that something is a bad idea? 

Finally, Ms. Haspel, I will end with what is hopefully an easy – but critical – request. As you know, this committee continues its investigation into the Russian interference with the 2016 election. We appreciate the CIA’s past assistance with this investigation. I will expect your commitment to continuing cooperation with us and with the Mueller investigation in the future. I hope you will agree that it is critical that both of these investigations be permitted to proceed independently and completely towards their own conclusions – without White House interference.  

Ms. Haspel, once again congratulations on your nomination for this important position. 

Thank you Mr. Chairman, I yield back.