Flake seeks report on Haspel's role in destruction of CIA interrogation tapes

Sen. Jeff Flake joined Democrats Thursday in calling for more information on Gina Haspel’s role in the CIA’s destruction of 92 videotapes that documented enhanced interrogation techniques used against two terror suspects.

Haspel has been nominated to be director of the CIA, and the Senate is preparing to vote on her appointment.

Gina Haspel, President Trump’s pick to lead the Central Intelligence Agency, during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee, May 9, 2018. (Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP)

“As the Senate considers the nomination of Gina Haspel to serve as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, it is critical that all Senators have access to information detailing Ms. Haspel’s role in the 2005 destruction of videotapes belonging to the CIA,” Flake, R-Ariz., said in a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “These tapes contained important information relating to the use of so-called enhanced interrogation techniques that are now illegal.”

In 2002, Haspel held a supervisory position at the secret CIA black site in Thailand where the videos were made and subsequently destroyed. Two U.S. detainees, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, were subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques such as waterboarding, which the CIA documented in its hundreds of hours of footage.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., asked Haspel whether she had advocated destroying the tapes.

“Senator, I absolutely was an advocate if we could within and conforming to U.S. law and if we could get policy concurrent to eliminate the security risk posed to our officers by those tapes,” Haspel responded.

Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., speaks to reporters, March 20, 2018. (Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

At the same time, however, Haspel said she never watched the tapes herself, but she realized that their contents were so graphic that their release would endanger the CIA officers who carried out what has since been deemed to be torture.

Several Democrats have sought the declassification of the CIA’s Durham Report, which offered an assessment of the destruction of the tapes, and Flake has made his vote on Haspel’s nomination contingent on it.

“I respectfully request that the Durham Report be made available for every Senator to review in the proper setting as soon as possible, prior to casting a vote for or against Ms. Haspel,” Flake wrote in his letter to Sessions. “It is critical that all Senators have access to the same important, relevant information regarding the person nominated to lead the CIA.”

The American Civil Liberties Union sent a March 16 letter to every member of the Senate, sounding an alarm on Haspel’s role at the CIA black site in Thailand.

“In addition to her role overseeing torture, Ms. Haspel’s participation in the destruction of videotapes of the torture program, over objections of White House counsel and CIA General Counsel among others, is alarming,” the letter stated.

Citing her role in CIA’s enhanced interrogation program, Sen. John McCain, R.-Ariz., has come out against Haspel’s nomination.

Flake said Thursday that McCain’s “voice matters here,” adding, “I’m glad he’s spoken up.”

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