In spite of an impressive record, Gina Haspel’s nomination to the post of CIA director has run into a bit of a rough patch in the Senate. That’s mostly because of her part in the George W. Bush administration’s enhanced interrogation program during the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, including the use of waterboarding.
Haspel has mostly been unapologetic about her part, which is unsurprising. She’s also said that she wouldn’t reinstitute waterboarding, which is again unsurprising since it was banned by an act of Congress in 2015.
Whether she can get enough votes in the Senate to get confirmed is anyone’s guess. However, she has some support outside of Capitol Hill — namely from one of America’s most famous Green Berets, who had himself waterboarded to show his support for the nominee.
Former UFC fighter Tim Kennedy, who served in the Special Forces in Afghanistan as a sniper before starting a mixed martial arts career, uploaded a 41-minute video to social media in which he’s waterboarded while answering questions.
“The reason we are doing this … is for us to have a conversation. Right now, an amazing hero has been appointed to be director of the CIA and because of that, some of the things she has done are being attacked,” Kennedy said regarding the nominee, according to The Hill.
Kennedy was also outraged over the fact that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, charged as one of the men who orchestrated the 9/11 attacks, requested to testify before Congress regarding Haspel’s nomination.
“The terrorist is supposed to tell us who should run the CIA, that is an endorsement in my book,” Kennedy said regarding Mohammed’s seeming opposition to Haspel’s nomination.
Reports say that Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times over 15 sessions as part of his detention.
“If I can change one person’s mind about what torture is and what I would do to protect American freedom, I will do this for years,” Kennedy said in the video, which has been viewed 80,000 times as of Sunday morning.
Here’s the video, which we must warn you could be too graphic for some viewers. Discretion is advised. However, it’s definitely an eye-opener.
Kennedy wasn’t the only one there. Mike Simpson, a special ops vet who was the director of medical training at Kennedy’s Sheepdog Response nonprofit, was on hand to make sure everything went okay, and his buddy Shane was there to waterboard him.
“He’s allegedly ‘torturing’ me!” Kennedy said, complete with big air quotes.
This isn’t the first time that Kennedy has publicly stated he didn’t believe that waterboarding is torture, either. He also tweeted a message earlier in the week that seemed to express his support for Haspel, as well.
Waterboarding is not torture.
— Tim Kennedy (@TimKennedyMMA) May 10, 2018
Haspel, 61, has faced criticism for running a CIA black site in Thailand back in 2002 at which enhanced interrogation techniques were practiced. Two Republican senators — Rand Paul of Kentucky and John McCain of Arizona — have announced their plans to vote against Haspel, with McCain going as far as to urge Senate colleagues to vote against her.
However, Democrat Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Joe Donnelly of Indiana, both of whom face tough re-election battles in red states that the Democrats need to win, have announced their support for the nominee.
Donnelly announced Saturday he had sat down and had a “tough, frank and extensive discussion” with Haspel that included “issues of detention and interrogation.” After that sit-down, the first-term Democrat decided to throw his support behind her.
With Donnelly announcing he was coming on board, that likely gives Haspel 51 votes, enough that the Republicans could even take another defection and still get Haspel confirmed.
Kennedy is far from the only former Special Forces veteran to come out and say that waterboarding doesn’t constitute torture and that it works. In a tweet earlier this week, Navy SEAL Rob O’Neill, one of the people who helped kill Osama bin Laden, said that waterboarding helped them suss out the terror mastermind’s hideout.
These are the people on the ground who actually know what enhanced interrogation techniques can do. While one can take a variety of things away from the debate over Haspel’s nomination, the point is that there isn’t very much debate. Voices like Kennedy’s or O’Neill’s aren’t usually heard.
The media freakout needs to be tempered by a bit of information from the other side of the debate — the side that has put boots on the ground in places most of us would fear to read and know what the interrogation of a terrorist is really like.
If they’re going to get information from that side, they could do a lot worse than getting it from Tim Kennedy.
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