Sen. Harris Grills Haspel: "Do You Believe Previous Interrogation Techniques Were Immoral?"


Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) grilled CIA Director-designate Gina Haspel at her confirmation hearing on Wednesday.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS: Thank you. So let's just be clear, this hearing is not about the incredible importance of the service and sacrifice of the men and women of the CIA. That's not what this hearing is about. This hearing is not about the importance of the agency's mission, both of which I wholeheartedly support.

This hearing is about your suitability to be the director of the CIA. And in our responsibility to participate in choosing who will be the next director of the CIA, the mission that we have now includes understanding that who we choose will be a signal to the men and women of the agency, to the American people and to our neighbors around the world about our values as Americans on critical issues that range from our adherence to a rule of law, to what we prioritize in terms of professional accountability and what we prioritize in terms of our moral authority as Americans and as a country.

So one question I've not heard you answer is, do you believe that the previous interrogation techniques were immoral?

GINA HASPEL: Senator, I believe that CIA officers, to whom you referred...

HARRIS: It's a yes or no answer. Do you believe the previous interrogation techniques were immoral? I'm not asking you believe they were legal. I'm asking do you believe they were immoral.

HASPEL: Senator, I believe that CIA...

HARRIS: It's yes or no.

HASPEL: ... extraordinary work to prevent another attack on this country given the legal tools that we were authorizing...

HARRIS: Please answer yes or no. Do you believe in hindsight that those techniques were immoral?

HASPEL: Senator, what I believe sitting here today is that I support the higher moral standard we have decided to hold ourselves.

HARRIS: Will you answer the question?

HASPEL: Senator, I think I've answered the question.

HARRIS: No, you've not. Do you believe the previous techniques, now armed with hindsight -- do you believe they were immoral, yes or no?

HASPEL: Senator, I believe that we should hold ourselves to the moral standard outlined in the Army Field Manual.


HARRIS: OK. And you also have hearing have a responsibility to ask -- answer the questions that are being asked of you. I'm going to ask you a different question. Do you -- would you agree that given this appearance of conflict or potential conflict around the classification or declassification of these documents, that -- would you agree that Director Coats instead should have the responsibility for declassification decisions regarding your background?

HASPEL: Senator, I think one important thing is that this committee plays a unique role to review the classified record and we have sent over every piece of paper we can lay our hands on about my classified record; all of my evaluations over a 33 year career. And I hope every senator is had the opportunity to look at that classified material...

HARRIS: Indeed I have.

HASPEL: But there are...

HARRIS: I have another question for you then because I only have a few minutes left -- I only have few seconds left. The president has asserted that torture works. Do you agree with that statement?

HASPEL: Senator, I -- I -- I don't believe that torture works. I believe that in the CIA's program -- and -- and I'm not attributing this to enhanced interrogation techniques -- I believe, as many people, directors who have sat in this chair before me, that valuable information was obtained from senior Al Qaeda operatives that allowed us to defend this country and prevent another attack.

HARRIS: Is that a yes?

HASPEL: No, it's not a yes. We got valuable information from the briefing of Al Qaeda detainees and I don't -- I don't think it's knowable whether interrogation techniques played a role in that.

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