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Sen. Doug Jones plans to vote against Trump’s CIA nominee

Chip Brownlee

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Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, said Tuesday that he would not support President Donald Trump's pick to lead the CIA.

U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, plans to vote against President Donald Trump’s controversial pick to lead the CIA, Gina Haspel, his office said in a statement Tuesday.

Haspel, a longtime CIA intelligence official, ran a CIA prison in Thailand in 2002 when a captured Al Qaeda detainee, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who was accused of orchestrating a 2000 bombing of an American destroyer off the coast of Yemen, was subjected to waterboarding and other techniques that have been labeled torture.

“After spending several weeks carefully evaluating all of the information available to me about Ms. Haspel and her career, reviewing her confirmation hearing, speaking with current and former public officials, and meeting with her in person yesterday, I have come to the conclusion that I cannot support her confirmation as the Director of the CIA,” Jones said in the statement from his office Tuesday.

The New York Times reported Tuesday that Haspel appears to have secured the votes needed to be confirmed after she wrote a letter to a top Senate Democrat disavowing the techniques. She said the agency should not have engaged in the interrogation program, which reportedly subjected detainees to torture after the Sept. 11 attacks.

During her confirmation hearing last week, she refused to condemn the program.

“With the benefit of hindsight and my experience as a senior agency leader, the enhanced interrogation program is not one the C.I.A. should have undertaken,” she wrote in the letter to Sen. Mark Warner, D-Virginia, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee. “The United States must be an example to the rest of the world, and I support that.”

Warner later announced he would support her confirmation, and two other Democrats, Sens. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Bill Nelson of Florida, joined Warner in saying they would support Haspel’s nomination.

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Jones said her statement Tuesday did not relieve his concerns, which he said are rooted “in both the responsibility I feel as a Senator and in my own deeply held faith.”

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“While her career has been impressive, Ms. Haspel’s role in programs that conducted torture is very troubling; her refusal to acknowledge the immorality of such conduct even today with the benefit of hindsight is even more so and reflects poorly on our nation’s reputation as a moral leader in the world,” Jones said.

The Intelligence Committee plans to vote on Haspel’s confirmation Wednesday, and the full Senate is expected to vote by the end of the week, said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, according to The New York Times.

“I appreciate the commitment of Ms. Haspel and her colleagues to the service and defense of our nation, and I do not doubt the skills and expertise she has gained during her long career in the CIA,” Jones said. “However, the leader of the CIA, an organization tasked with operating clandestinely to keep Americans safe, must be held to the highest possible standard.

“There is a legal and moral responsibility that comes with operating in secrecy. Some of Ms. Haspel’s past actions and beliefs did not meet that standard. We must choose leaders that consistently embody our highest ideals, rather than our darkest moments.”

 

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