President Donald Trump’s nominee to be the next head of the Central Intelligence Agency, long-time agency veteran Gina Haspel, underwent serious grilling from members of the Senate Intelligence Committee Wednesday during her confirmation hearing.
Haspel was asked repeatedly about the former use of enhanced interrogation techniques — such as waterboarding — to obtain valuable intelligence from detained terrorists, a program she was once involved in and for which she has received tremendous criticism.
Haspel repeatedly assured the senators that she would not revive the shutdown program — which had been labeled as “torture” and declared illegal by Congress in 2015 — nor would she covertly order agents to utilize such techniques in spite of the congressional prohibition, as some of the senators assumed she might do.
Nevertheless, the Democratic senators who stand opposed to confirming the first female director of the CIA — good luck defending that move with women voters this fall — continued to unceremoniously grill her and refused to accept her repeated assurances.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney maintains a starkly different view of the legality and necessity of the program and techniques than that of Congress and even Haspel. Cheney suggested that he would keep such a program utilizing enhanced interrogation techniques “active and ready to go” if he had any say in the matter.
During an interview with Fox Business Network host Maria Bartiromo on Thursday, Cheney suggested such a program would be invaluable to helping prevent or stop terrorist plots in or against the United States.
“If it were my call, I would not discontinue those programs. I’d have them active and ready to go,” Cheney said. “And I’d go back and study them and learn.”
Cheney was vice president during the 9/11 terrorist attack that killed nearly 3,000 people in 2001, and he has been a vocal supporter of the enhanced interrogation techniques that were used against some of the Al-Qaeda members suspected of involvement in the planning of that horrific attack, such as suspected chief plotter Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
Those harsh interrogation techniques, including waterboarding — used against Mohammad and a handful of others — are believed to have successfully derived the intelligence that ultimately led to the discovery of Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden’s hidden compound in Pakistan.
“The agency is in a difficult position. The Congress has acted, they have changed the law and the agency has to and will operate by that statute,” Cheney said of the congressional action to halt the program and declare the techniques illegal.
“There are a lot of Monday morning quarterbacks in the terrorism business,” he said in reference to the members of Congress behind that move.
“You tell me that the only method we have is ‘Please, please, pretty please, tell us what you know?’ Well I don’t buy that,” Cheney added.
Put that way, it does seem absurd that some members of Congress seem to have gone out of their way to offer up incredible protections for known and suspected terrorists who wouldn’t give a second thought to engaging in real, medieval-style torture against Americans.
There is something to be said for Americans holding themselves to a higher standard than terrorists and even many national governments who harbor no concern about torturing detainees and prisoners. But given the fact that those enemies and rivals wouldn’t hesitate for a moment in using torture against captured Americans, there is an argument to made that we should also have no qualms about fighting fire with fire.
Haspel has made it clear there will be no enhanced interrogation techniques or torture used by the CIA if she is in charge, and unless Congress decides to revisit the statute and make such techniques legal once again, nobody else will be doing so either.
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