Ex-Spy: Trump's CIA Pick Shouldn't Be Torture Program 'Scapegoat'


When President Donald Trump tweeted Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's job away and announced he planned to fill the vacancy with current CIA Director Mike Pompeo, he also said he wanted the CIA's current deputy director, Gina Haspel, to take the reins of the spy agency.

In the wake of this announcement, several prominent former intelligence officials, including former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former CIA Acting Director Mike Morell, spoke highly of Haspel, herself a 30-plus-year veteran of the agency. But Haspel also has a chorus of loud detractors, especially civil liberties figures, because of her reported prominent role in the CIA's enhanced interrogation program, later declared by the U.S. government to be torture.

Over Twitter, John Sipher, who spent 28 years in the CIA's clandestine service, told me why he thought Haspel deserved to be asked "hard questions" but would ultimately be good for the agency. The brief exchange is posted below, with Sipher's permission, along with a direct message in which he expanded a little more on his thoughts. (Note: EIT refers to enhanced interrogation techniques, the clinical-sounding term used by the CIA for torture.)

[The direct message from Sipher, also posted here with permission:]

I think a lot of people in CIA felt a sense of responsibility for 9/11. They certainly knew that future attacks would be on our heads. The White House was pushing hard and our lawyers were working closely with the Justice Department. Several of the techniques were disallowed. I can imagine some people felt that, even if they felt queezy, the State was behind them and they were doing what was necessary. It’s hard when you know the people. When you know they are thoughtful and good people that were in a tough position. It’s easier if you are not the one on the line or the people are all faceless. I’m glad I was not near it. I don’t know what I would have done or how I might have rationalized it. When you see real evil in front of you, it takes something special to resist the fear. I know that many in the military and others were out of control but avoided accountability. I’m glad the law now is clear. It’s against the law. Period. However, this Administration may try to change it. CIA will refuse if asked but someone else will do it.

Primary Resource: Senate Intelligence Committee Report on CIA Detention and Interrogation Program

Related: One CIA Lawyer Could've Stopped the Waterboarding Before It Started, Here's Why He Didn't (ABC News)

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