Press Releases

Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today voted against the nomination of Gina Haspel to be CIA Director. Feinstein released the following statement:

Excerpts:

  • “[T]his nomination is bigger than one person. This nomination is about reckoning with our history. It’s about grappling with our country’s mistakes and making clear to the world that we accept responsibility for our mistakes and they will never be repeated.”
  • “The bottom line is this: No one has ever been held accountable for the torture program and I do not believe those who were intimately involved in it deserve to lead the agency. What message does it send to the world if we reward people for presiding over what is considered to be one of the darkest chapters in our history?”
  • “It’s unacceptable for her or the CIA to hide her behind a wall of secrecy. I believe senators and the American public have the right to know whether or not the nominee before us was a senior manager for a program that has been shown to be deeply flawed, as well as a number of other disturbing facts. Without the full scope of Ms. Haspel’s involvement available for public review, I do not see how this body can adequately carry out its constitutionally mandated duty to advise and consent on the president’s nominee.”
  • “If Ms. Haspel is confirmed, it would send the wrong message to the country and to the world. It would send the wrong message that America has abdicated its moral authority. It would send the wrong message that we condone behavior that belies the conscience and the values of this nation. When the Obama administration chose not to prosecute those involved in the CIA’s torture program, they claimed we were moving forward, not backward. To elevate a person with reportedly intimate involvement in a torture program to lead our Central Intelligence Agency would signal to our allies and our enemies that we are looking backward. This nomination is, in effect, a referendum on whether America condones the use of torture.”

Full statement:

Ms. Haspel played a central role in the CIA’s Rendition, Detention and Interrogation program. This was one of the darkest chapters in our nation’s history and it must not be repeated.

Since her nomination, I and my staff have reviewed thousands of classified documents detailing her role in the program. The takeaway is this: Ms. Haspel was a strong supporter of the torture program.

While many CIA operatives expressed hesitation or outright opposition to the program, such as John Brennan, Ms. Haspel was not one of them.

As I said last week, this nomination is bigger than one person. This nomination is about reckoning with our history. It’s about grappling with our country’s mistakes and making clear to the world that we accept responsibility for our mistakes and they will never be repeated.

I was struck by Ms. Haspel’s repeated insistence at her hearing that the torture program was “legal.” The torture program was illegal at the time based on international treaties the United States is signatory to, including the Convention Against Torture and Geneva Convention.

While the Office of Legal Counsel signed off on waterboarding and other “enhanced interrogation techniques,” its flimsy legal analyses were withdrawn in 2003 and 2004 and should never have taken precedence over international law.

The bottom line is this: No one has ever been held accountable for the torture program and I do not believe those who were intimately involved in it deserve to lead the agency.

What message does it send to the world if we reward people for presiding over what is considered to be one of the darkest chapters in our history?

Of course, supporters of the torture program are constantly trying to rewrite history, so I think it is important to revisit that history here today. After a five and a half year review of the CIA's detention and interrogation program, the Senate Intelligence Committee released a 500-page declassified executive summary in December 2014.

The summary was backed up by a 6,700 page classified report with nearly 38,000 footnotes citing to CIA and other official records. Every finding and conclusion is thoroughly supported by documentation.

The report examined the detention of at least 119 individuals and the use of coercive interrogation techniques—in some cases amounting to torture.

It is also important to note this was a bipartisan report with each key vote during the process of the report having both Democrats and Republicans voting yes.

In December 2012, the Intelligence Committee approved the report by a 9-6 vote, with one Republican voting yes. And in April 2014, the committee approved the executive summary and findings and conclusions for declassification and public release by an 11-3 vote, with three Republicans voting yes.

The full report remains classified. In December 2014, copies of the full, 6,700-page classified report were sent to parts of the executive branch, including the CIA, to be used broadly by those personnel with appropriate clearances to ensure that the abuses documented in the report would never be repeated.

This report was intended as an important tool to help educate our intelligence agencies about a dark chapter of our nation’s history.

However, last May, when Ms. Haspel was already the Deputy Director, the CIA returned its only copy of the report at the request of Chairman Burr. The CIA Inspector General, the Director of National Intelligence, and others followed suit and also returned their copies.

In fact, only three copies of the report exist outside of the Senate Intelligence Committee, all of the others are gone.

Today, two copies of the full report remain under order by Federal judges, and a third exists because of President Obama’s decision in December 2016 to preserve the full report with the National Archives under the Presidential Records Act.

During Ms. Haspel’s hearing, she stated multiple times that the CIA’s rendition, detention and interrogation program was “legal and authorized by the highest legal authority in our country and also the President.”

I find Ms. Haspel’s statement to be both misleading and incorrect. While the Office of Legal Counsel wrote several secret legal opinions used to justify the program, I don’t believe those actions were ever legal, I’m not aware of a single court ruling that affirmed those OLC opinions, and those OLC opinions were in conflict with the multiple international treaties to which the U.S. is a signatory to.

In fact, the Department of Justice conducted an investigation of the facts and circumstances surrounding the drafting of these torture memos and the Department's role in the implementation of interrogation practices by the CIA.

On June 29, 2009, the DOJ’s Office of Professional Responsibility, the unit charged with investigating allegations of misconduct, issued its report.

That report concluded former Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo and former Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee committed professional misconduct in the drafting of those seriously deficient legal opinions.

Additionally, Jack Goldsmith, the Assistant Attorney General who led the Office of Legal Counsel in 2003 and 2004, found that their memoranda were “riddled with error,”

He also concluded that key portions were “plainly wrong,” and characterized them as a “one-sided effort to eliminate any hurdles posed by the torture law.”

Moreover, the CIA program certainly didn’t meet the bar set by any of the four major international legal conventions prohibiting torture.

First, The Geneva Convention, ratified by the US in 1949, Common Article 3 provides further protections against torture in times of conflict. It states that those persons no longer taking active part in hostilities, including those who are detained, are prohibited from being subjected to: “violence of life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture” as well as “outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment.”

Second, United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, ratified by the US in 1948, states in Article 5 that: “no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

Third, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ratified by the US in 1992, repeats verbatim, the outlawing of torture found in Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Additionally Article 5 of the International Covenant includes language meant to prevent states from utilizing legal work-arounds to overcome the spirit of the condemnation of torture.

Fourth, the United Nations Convention Against Torture, ratified by the United States in 1994, defines torture in Article 1 as: “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession….”

I also find it appropriate to note for the record that the committee sought to use pseudonyms created specifically for this report so that the readers could connect the actions of the same CIA officer throughout the report, but without their actual name or other personally identifying information.

To address the CIA’s concerns, the committee agreed to reduce the number of CIA personnel listed in pseudonym from a few hundred ultimately down to 14 people who were most intimately involved in the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program.

The CIA and the White House refused to allow these 14 individuals to be listed in pseudonym. The lack of pseudonyms, and in many cases even a title of a CIA officer, means that connections between a person’s actions and statements cannot be made, and that the seniority and positions of authority of individuals in the report are hidden.

In light of Ms. Haspel’s nomination to be director, we’ve asked repeatedly for pertinent records to be declassified, only to be stonewalled at every turn.

Instead, the CIA, with Ms. Haspel as the Acting Director, has engaged in a selective declassification campaign to bolster Ms. Haspel’s nomination, while keeping all potentially damaging material under wraps.

Given the CIA’s intransigence on Haspel’s records, I am very limited in what I’m able to say about her specifically.

However, I am able to revisit what happened at the CIA “black sites,” which is detailed extensively in the report’s summary.

For example, one detainee, Abd al-Nashiri, was interrogated using CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques, including being waterboarded at least three times. These tactics were not just morally reprehensible, they were ineffective.

The committee found, based on a review of CIA interrogation records, that the use of the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques on detainees like al-Nashiri was ineffective in obtaining accurate information or gaining detainee cooperation.

Contrary to CIA claims, these so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” did not produce intelligence that thwarted terrorist plots or resulted in the capture of terrorists. That intelligence was already available from other sources or from the detainees themselves before they were tortured.

In fact, torture often led to false information. The report also lays out, in excruciating detail that the program was grossly mismanaged and the CIA provided Congress and the public with inaccurate information.

Again, while I can’t speak in depth about Ms. Haspel, our report makes clear that surprisingly few people were responsible for designing, carrying out, and managing the torture program.

This was not something that involved the entire agency. It was limited to the agency’s top leadership and staff including Directors, Deputy Directors for Operations, and senior level management at the Counterterrorism Center among others.

As we know from the extremely limited information Ms. Haspel has publicly provided, she did hold positions including senior level management at the Counterterrorism Center.

And yet, she has declined to answer publically when asked whether she had responsibility, supervision or approval relevant to the CIA Rendition, Detention and Interrogation program.

Additionally, because Ms. Haspel as the Acting Director for CIA, and the Director of National Intelligence have refused to declassify any additional information, I am unable to publically discuss her exact role in late 2002.

Furthermore, I am also unable to publically discuss the things I know she approved as a senior level supervisor at the Counterterrorism Center from 2003 to 2004, or discuss what she worked on as the Chief of Staff to the Deputy Director for Operations from 2005 to 2008.

Instead, I can only reference reports by former Deputy Counsel of the CIA, John Rizzo, that Ms. Haspel was one of “the staunchest advocates inside the [CIA] for destroying the tapes” of CIA interrogations conducted under the torture program.

I find the CIA’s responses to requests for information about Ms. Haspel to be wholly inadequate. Ms. Haspel is not an undercover operative, she’s the acting CIA director seeking a Cabinet-level position.

It’s unacceptable for her or the CIA to hide her behind a wall of secrecy. I believe senators and the American public have the right to know whether or not the nominee before us was a senior manager for a program that has been shown to be deeply flawed, as well as a number of other disturbing facts.

Without the full scope of Ms. Haspel’s involvement available for public review, I do not see how this body can adequately carry out its constitutionally mandated duty to advise and consent on the president’s nominee.

Proponents of Ms. Haspel’s nomination have argued that she was just doing her job and following orders.

If confirmed, what would Ms. Haspel do? Would she carry out and enforce the president’s directives if they would violate our Constitution and international treaties?

I am also concerned her leadership could create problems for the CIA to perform one of its core functions: cooperating with foreign governments, and European allies in particular.

Specifically, her confirmation could complicate U.S.-German relations. While the German government has not made a public position on Ms. Haspel’s nomination, Germany is strongly opposed to torture and multiple U.S. intelligence actions outlined in the Senate Intelligence Torture Report have already caused rifts in U.S.-German relations.

Additionally, when Ms. Haspel was promoted to CIA Deputy Director in 2017, the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, headquartered in Berlin, petitioned German prosecutors to order an arrest warrant for Haspel due to her participation in the CIA torture program.

While I understand the German government is unlikely to issue an arrest warrant, Germans still remember that U.S. intelligence officials mistakenly abducted and tortured Khalid al-Masri, a German citizen in 2003.

Mr. Masri, a German citizen, was seized on Dec. 31, 2003, as he entered Macedonia because he was wrongfully believe to be an Al Qaeda terrorist traveling on false German passport.

He was then turned over to the CIA, which rendered, detained and interrogated him. After five months, he was dropped on a roadside in Albania.

This was a grave mistake that even Ms. Haspel acknowledged in a pre-hearing question whether the CIA ever rendered or detained suspects who were innocent by stating: “I understand that the CIA’s Office of the Inspector General conducted a review of the rendition of Khalid al-Masri and determined that CIA did not meet the standard for rendition under the September 17th, 2001 Memorandum of Notification (MON).”

Even though the CIA acknowledges this mistake, it is incomprehensible that no one has been held accountable for this and other violations.

If Ms. Haspel is confirmed, it would send the wrong message to the country and to the world. It would send the wrong message that America has abdicated its moral authority. It would send the wrong message that we condone behavior that belies the conscience and the values of this nation.

When the Obama administration chose not to prosecute those involved in the CIA’s torture program, they claimed we were moving forward, not backward.

To elevate a person with reportedly intimate involvement in a torture program to lead our Central Intelligence Agency would signal to our allies and our enemies that we are looking backward.

This nomination is, in effect, a referendum on whether America condones the use of torture. If confirmed, this nominee’s decisions will affect the lives and safety of all Americans.

Our job is to assess whether the nominee has the strength of character to stand up to her superiors when reckoning with violations of our rule of law and moral values.

Unfortunately, based on Ms. Haspel’s record at the CIA, the lack of public transparency regarding her tenure, and the implications for America’s reputation at home and abroad, I cannot support this nomination.”

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