Haspel: What We Did and Didn’t Hear

Our favorite CIA director nominee, Gina Haspel, reported to the Senate Intelligence Committee today for her confirmation hearing and was met with difficult questions.

Haspel defended her role as an “advocate” for the destruction of video tapes which contained evidence of CIA torture, yet claimed that her “moral compass is strong.”

Prior to her hearing, more than 100 former and retired U.S. ambassadors sent a letter to the senate decrying Haspel’s nomination.

The ambassadors focused on Haspel’s involvement with the Enhanced Interrogation Techniques program (EIT), as did the Code Pinkprotesters who gathered inside the Senate Office Building and were later forcibly removed.

Other groups and individuals rallied outside the building, protesting both Haspel and newly-appointed national security advisor and infamous war hawk John Bolton.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, “mastermind” of the September 11 attacks and former torture subject of the CIA, has asked permission to share information about Haspel with the Senate Intelligence Committee.

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The Torturer Will Speak

On Friday, Gina Haspel, the current acting director of the CIA and nominee to become the full-director, offered to withdraw her nomination in light of the deep resistance to her appointment from congress.

By Saturday, however, she was announcing that she would not withdraw, and her hearing has been set for Wednesday. If the senators present at the hearing can muster the courage to ask her, it may be the first time Haspel ever speaks publicly about her involvement in CIA torture programs.

We’ve been following Haspel’s nomination for some time now, and would be lying if we said we weren’t disappointed that she decided not to withdraw.

But, it will be interesting to see how her hearing goes and whether or not the senate will be able to gather the nerve to ask Haspel about her record and her involvement in CIA torture.

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Haspel & Pompeo

The first encounters pushback and suspicion while the second secures his rise to power.

Haspel gears up for her confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee while Pompeo was sworn in as Secretary of State Thursday after receiving a confirmation vote in the Senate of 57 to 42.

Though the two have been steadily climbing the ladder of power ever since Rex Tillerson’s less-than-gracious dismissal started a chain reaction of vacancies to fill, it’s beginning to appear that Haspel’s climb will prove to be more difficult than Pompeo’s, and for good reason.

Pompeo has had the distinction of shaking North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s hand during a secret political liaison, and now looks forward to his official visits to Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan.

Haspel, meanwhile, continues to suffer the shame of her skeleton’s being dragged out of the closet as George Washington University’s National Security Archive has published additional documents relating to her involvement in the torture of detainees at a CIA black-site in Thailand and her instructions to destroy videotape evidence of a prisoner’s waterboarding.

The document is appropriately titled, “Gina Haspel’s CIA Torture File.”

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The Saga of Pompeo

CIA Director Mike Pompeo reportedly met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un even as he faces tough opposition in the Senate as he awaits to be confirmed as secretary of state.

The move flies in the face of protocol and tradition, as Pompeo did not meet with the North Korean leader in a diplomatic capacity, but rather in his capacity as an advisor to the president as well as the chief of a spy agency.

Since decades of tradition and protocol haven’t garnered any results with the rogue nation, some have said that the surprising decision to give Pompeo first access to Kim Jong-un in a non-formal setting may actually be a smart move.

After all, it’s not as though we’ve been able to prevent them from building more nuclear weapons with our current tactics.

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The Nepotist in Chief

Our president has issued a pardon for Lewis “Scooter” Libby, who was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice in the 2007 exposure of former CIA operative Valerie Plame’s identity.

Libby was chief of staff for then Vice President Dick Cheney, and has claimed that Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald was out-of-bounds in his investigation into Libby.

If it seems like you’ve heard this before, you have.

While the pardon is functionally irrelevant for Libby, who was already spared jail time by President George W. Bush, it does have implications for our current political state of affairs.

Some have argued that pardoning Libby was in fact the correct thing to do, but have allowed that the president may not have done it for the right reasons.

Stan Crock, who worked as a consultant for Libby in 2008, argues in an opinion piece for the Washington Post that both Democrats and Republicans mischaracterized the investigation and that ultimately Libby was charged for crimes he didn’t commit.

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The Rotating Door

The current president of the United States of America has an interesting habit of announcing staffing changes via Twitter — just like he uses it to announce important policy changes.

Dropping these digital bombshells has apparently become a favorite pastime for number 45, with five White House staffers getting the boot in the last month.

So, what does this mean, and why should you care?

Well, let’s start with Rex Tillerson’s replacement.

Mike Pompeo, the current director of the CIA, former Tea Party congressman and CEO of Exxon Mobil, received $80,000 in donations from Koch Industries during his congressional campaign.

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