John McCain calls on Senate to reject Gina Haspel's CIA nomination

John McCain calls on Senate to reject Gina Haspel's CIA nomination

John McCain


Senator John McCain of Arizona.

  • Sen. John McCain of Arizona said he believes acting CIA director Gina Haspel is not fit to lead the intelligence agency.
  • McCain, a prisoner of war during Vietnam, attributed his decision to Haspel's refusal to answer whether or not she believes the use of torture is immoral.
  • Haspel allegedly oversaw a CIA blacksite in Thailand, where various torture techniques were employed.

Sen. John McCain of Arizona said he believes acting CIA director Gina Haspel is not fit to lead the CIA, citing her "disturbing" role in the use of torture at a CIA blacksite during the George H.W. Bush administration.

"Today, Gina Haspel testified before the Senate and to the country about her qualifications to lead the CIA," McCain said in a statement. "I believe the Senate should exercise its duty of advice and consent and reject this nomination."

McCain, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, praised Haspel as a patriot "who loves our country," but stopped short of endorsing the career official after she refused to answer whether she believed the use of torture was immoral.

Haspel served 33 years in the CIA and was praised by lawmakers from both parties for her service during her confirmation hearing on Tuesday. But she was criticized for failing to answer for the agency's role in various torture methods, including waterboarding, against prisoners.


Gina Haspel

CIA via AP

Acting CIA director Gina Haspel.

"I believe that CIA did extraordinary work to prevent another attack on this country given the legal tools that we were authorized to use," Haspel said, after being asked whether she thought torture was right or wrong.

"I'm not going to sit here with the benefit of hindsight and judge the very good people who made hard decisions who were running the agency in very extraordinary circumstances at the time."

During her testimony, Haspel denied overseeing a CIA blacksite where torture techniques were used, and added that if nominated, the agency would not restart the program.

"Having served in that tumultuous time, I can offer you my personal commitment, clearly and without reservation, that under my leadership, CIA will not restart such a detention and interrogation program," Haspel said.


McCain, a former US Navy pilot and a prisoner of war during Vietnam, acknowledged that there was an "urgency that drove the decision to resort to so-called enhanced interrogation methods" immediately following the 9/11 attacks, but still found her answer lacking.

"I appreciate their dilemma and the strain of their duty," McCain said. "But as I have argued many times, the methods we employ to keep our nation safe must be as right and just as the values we aspire to live up to and promote in the world."

Many Republican lawmakers have come out to support Haspel's nomination, but a few holdovers remain. Following her hearing, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia became the first Democrat to support her nomination.

"I have found Gina Haspel to be a person of great character," Machin reportedly said in a statement. "Over her 33 year career as a CIA operations officer, she has worked in some of the most dangerous corners of our world, and I have the utmost respect for the sacrifices she has made for our country."