CIA nominee to pledge not to restart detention, interrogation programs

FILE PHOTO: Gina Haspel, a veteran CIA clandestine officer picked by U.S. President Donald Trump to head the Central Intelligence Agency, is shown in this handout photograph released on March 13, 2018. CIA/Handout via Reuters

President Donald Trump’s choice for CIA chief is privately assuring senators that she will not reinstitute a detention and interrogation program and will make the pledge publicly at her May 9 confirmation hearing.

Deputy CIA Director Gina Haspel plans to give the commitment in her opening statement and she has been telling members that as well.

The pledge comes as Haspel’s nomination encounters opposition over her role in a now-defunct program in which the agency detained and interrogated al Qaeda suspects in secret prisons overseas using techniques widely condemned as torture.

Haspel has been pledging in private interviews with senators that she will never allow the CIA to revive a detention and interrogation program.

She also said that  all U.S. government agencies involved in interrogations should observe the standards set in a U.S. Army field manual on interrogations, said the administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Trump named Haspel, the first woman tapped to head the agency, to succeed Mike Pompeo, who became secretary of state on Thursday. She faces a Senate Intelligence Committee confirmation hearing on May 9.

A public vow by Haspel not to reinstitute a detention and interrogation program would be significant, especially since Trump said last year that torture “absolutely” works and he would be open to its use if recommended by top aides.

Her public commitment also could help ease some senators’ reservations prompted by her oversight in 2002 of a secret “black site” in Thailand where detainees underwent waterboarding, sleep deprivation and other brutal techniques.

Then-President George W. Bush authorized the so-called Rendition, Detention and Interrogation Program after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

Haspel, who served as an undercover intelligence officer for more than 30 years, has won the support of dozens of former senior U.S. officials.

Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein and several other Democrats have questioned her suitability to be director, and they were angered last week by the CIA’s refusal to declassify more details of her career.

The CIA said that it would work with the committee to make materials that still are classified available to senators in a secure facility and that it is committed to transparency “with the full Senate.”