CIA Nominee Haspel Promises Not to Restart Torture Program

Says past program was 'technically legal'

Facing the Senate Intelligence Committee and a lot of reservations on her own past involvement in CIA torture programs, CIA Director-nominee Gina Haspel is hoping to save her nomination with a combination of promises and secrecy about the specifics of what really happened in the past.

Gina Haspel

CIA records on Haspel’s past activity, which included running a black site in Thailand where detainees were tortured, will not be made public. The Senators are also being limited in what they can ask Haspel about.

This is keeping the messy details out of the public debate on Haspel. At the same time, she is offering promises to “absolutely not permit” any new torture program under her watch, nor anything else she thinks is “morally objectionable.”

Haspel’s involvement in the torture program, and the destruction of evidence of that torture program, raises a lot of concerns about how valuable her “strong moral compass” really is. This has a lot of Senators pushing for questions about her view on what happened in the past.

Haspel was dodging these questions pretty desperately, saying that the torture program was “technically legal.” She also refused to repudiate the past torture program, insisting it secured some valuable intelligence, and also that she wasn’t comfortable second-guessing CIA agents on what they’d done.

Her leadership ability, and the idea that her promise to disobey torture orders if Trump gives them, are both in serious doubt. This is why Haspel’s nomination is still in serious jeopardy, with expected votes split roughly down the middle, and heavily along party lines.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.