Return to Transcripts main page

AT THIS HOUR

Continuing Coverage of Confirmation Hearing for Gina Haspel. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired May 9, 2018 - 11:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


GINA HASPEL, CIA DIRECTOR NOMINEE: The very important thing to know --

[11:00:00]

-- about CIA is we follow the law. We followed the law then and we follow the law now, but I would never permit CIA to resume an interrogation program.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS, R-ME: So that's a very good segue into a very important question. As a candidate, President Trump repeatedly expressed his support for water boarding. In fact, he said we should go beyond water boarding. So if the CIA has a high-value terrorism suspect in it's custody and the president gave you a direct order to water board that suspect, what would you do?

HASPEL: Senator, I would advise I do not believe the president would ask me to do that, but we have today in the U.S. government other U.S. government entities that conduct interrogations. DoD uses the Army Field Manual and they conduct battlefield interrogations, and CIA has incredible expertise it can bring to the table in support of those interrogations.

The FBI has its authorities to conduct interrogations, and as you know, we have the high-value interrogation group. So I would be - advise anyone who asks me about it that CIA is not the right place to conduct interrogations. We don't have interrogators and we don't have interrogation expertise.

So I believe that would be my - the reason I have been nominated is that people have some respect for my views on these issues. My experiences during those days after 9/11 inform my views. I'm extremely knowledgeable and I'm also extremely knowledgeable about the price CIA working level men and women out in the trenches paid for decisions made after 9/11.

COLLINS: So debriefing a source is very different from interrogating a detainee. Should the CIA even be in the business of interrogating detainees?

HASPEL: We don't - we're not in the business of interrogating...

COLLINS: Interrogating (inaudible) is what you're saying.

HASPEL: Well, we're not in the business of interrogating detainees. As you said, there's a big difference between interrogation and simple question and answer. Having access - direct access to a terrorist is extremely valuable for intelligence collection and we do that, but CIA does not, today, conduct interrogations. We never did historically, and we're not getting back in that business.

COLLINS: Thank you.

BURR: Senator's time has expired. Senator Heinrich.

HEINRICH: Ms. Haspel, you didn't actually answer the question. What would you do if the president ordered you to get back in that business?

HASPEL: Senator, the president has selected me to give him...

HEINRICH: That's a yes...

HASPEL: ... advice. I would not restore it under any circumstances in an interrogation program at CIA under any circumstances.

HEINRICH: Thank you. You have repeatedly said that at the time the CIA's use of interrogation techniques like water boarding were determined to be legal. Now, there was an opinion written by the Office of Legal Counsel. I don't believe those actions were ever legal. They certainly didn't meet the bar set by either the Geneva Conventions or our own Army Field Manual, and I'm not aware of a single court ruling that affirmed that opinion.

Today, I'm not really interested in whether you believe those techniques were legal, but I am interested in the question that Senator Warner asked you. We got a very legalistic answer to that question. Let me ask you again, were these the right thing to do? Do -- are they consistent with American values fundamentally? What you believe?

HASPEL: Senator, I believe very strongly in American values and America be an example to the rest of the world. That is why I support the fact that we have chosen to hold ourselves to a stricter moral standard.

HEINRICH: But that's about Congress and all of us. I want to know what you think.

HASPEL: I think that we should hold ourselves to a stricter moral standard and I would never allow CIA to be involved in coercive interrogations.

HEINRICH: Where was that moral compass at the time?

HASPEL: Senator, that was 17 years ago and it's -- you know, CIA like the U.S. Army and the U.S. Marine Corps is an organization, it's a large bureaucracy and when you're out in the trenches at far-flung outposts in the globe and Washington says, here's what we need you to do, this is legal, the Attorney General has deemed it so, the president of the United States is counting on you...

HEINRICH: No, I know...

HASPEL: ...to prevent another attack...

HEINRICH: ...you believed it was legal.

HASPEL: I'm sorry?

HEINRICH: I know you believed it was legal. I want to see -- I want to feel, I want to trust that you have the moral compass that you said you have.

[11:05:00]

You're giving very legalistic answers to very fundamentally moral questions.

HASPEL: Senator I -- you know, we provided the committee every evaluation since my -- my training report when I first joined in 1985. In all of my assignments, I have conducted myself honorably and in accordance with U.S. law. My parents raised me right. I know -- I know the difference between right and wrong.

HEINRICH: Let's move on to -- to the videotapes. You told me earlier this week that you supported the decision of the CIA's deputy director of Operations to order the destruction of those videotapes depicting the use of EIT's. Would you still support that order today?

HASPEL: Senator, I would not. I think it's -- as I said, it's very important that people learn. Experience is a good teacher and the piece that was missing from the tapes was making sure that we had all the stakeholder's concurrence. There's also another very important leadership lesson; and is director of CIA, when your officers are concerned about their physical security, you can't let it languish in your inbox...

HEINRICH: Absolutely, I agree.

HASPEL: ...for three years with no action.

HEINRICH: We should support that security. Why couldn't the agency have simply digitized that video and then blacked out the faces of any agents in those videos? Why -- why actually destroy the videotapes? Doesn't that feel like a cover up, even if it isn't?

HASPEL: Senator, I don't think we were worried about official release. This was at a time when the entire program was the subject of unauthorized leaks and someone was found guilty of those unauthorized leaks. So the concern was an irresponsible leak of our officers' faces to the world, not -- not an official release.

HEINRICH: No, I understand that; but if you would black out the agents faces, destroyed the videotapes and then kept a digital record, that would've addressed the security concerns.

HASPEL: Senator, I'm -- I'm just not a -- a technical person, so I -- I don't... HEINRICH: Not that complicated.

HASPEL: Well I don't -- senator, I -- I don't know if that was considered or not.

HEINRICH: Do you think that a transcript that says the detainee continued to scream or the detainee appeared to be drowning has the same gravity, the same reality is an actual video?

HASPEL: Senator, I never saw the videos. I do know that we keep very complete and almost verbatim records and our cable traffic, but I think that the issue was the security risk posed our officers.

HEINRICH: Thank you.

BURR: It was time's expired. Senator Blunt.

BLUNT: Thank you. Thank you , chairman. Ms. Haspel, you know, we haven't really mentioned the broad support that you have had publicly from Democrats, Republicans, people who've run this agency in the past, people associate have (ph) with, frankly, people that this committee has -- members on this committee have shown great respect and regard for have, shown that same respect and regard for you.

I heard the General Hayden, former CIA director say the other day that he would be incredibly comfortable when the president was making decisions -- he made have said, maybe even more than comfortably, said he would -- feels more secure or something like that, if you were the person in the room.

That's really what we're talking about right now. We're not talking about what happened 17 years ago; we should be talking about what might happen 17 days or 17 weeks from now. I thought General Hayden actually captured my exact feelings on this topic. The importance of you being in the room, your mastery of the facts, your broad understanding of what has happened during your career all over the world, the cause, the result, the relationships, all of those things.

This is a term I think is often overused and I try not to use it very often, but I'm -- I'm -- it is the truth to power, you're in the room ,you understand the facts. Talk about your sense of obligation to present those facts and to speak truth to power at a moment when it matters.

HASPEL: Senator, thank you. Truth to power is one of CIA's most important missions. Like with any new administration, CIA has to demonstrate to the new team --

[11:10:00]

-- what we can bring to the table. I'm incredibly proud -- even though I come from the operational side -- I'm incredibly proud of the analysts at CIA.

That's really our face (ph) with policymakers, including the Congress. They do an incredible job on the president's daily brief each day, they do an incredible job on the expert briefings they provide to inform the important decisions our policymakers must consider. As I mentioned, there isn't a week that doesn't go by that I am not the subject of a request to have an analyst by name come over and talk about some of the big issues.

Our North Korea team has a superb reputation. Our China team is running all over this town, they're so busy providing briefings. We are all about bringing the most sophisticated, objective, all source analysis we can to make sure that the president and his team have the best intelligence that we can deliver.

It is hugely important...

PROTESTER: (OFF-MIKE)

BURR: Capitol Police, please remove her.

BLUNT: So let's go back, your -- as a leader of the team, I -- I appreciate that; I appreciate your respect for the team. Let's be sure we talk specifically about you. You're in the room. There is a fact that either hasn't appropriately been looked at, or considered or appreciated in your view, what do you do at that moment?

HASPEL: Senator, thank you. I've already worked with this President and his team for 15 months. I think I have a -- a great reputation with them. I'm at the table with Secretary Mattis and General Dunford and Secretary Mnuchin. I'm at many of the principal's meetings. I backup the former Director in the Oval Office where I'm part of Director Coats team; sometimes Sue Gordon is with me. soon. Gordon is with me.

I think we're bringing a very high quality product. As a senior intelligence officer, someone who spent a lot of time overseas and some of these places, the President does turn to me for my view on certain countries and certain experiences. I give him my best advice but I always separate my view, as someone who's been out in the field from the view of our analyst because we're really there to deliver the objective all source analysis that they write to support the President.

BLUNT: So you would see yourself as the master of the facts, the facts to be sure the President knows all the facts the President needs to know.

HASPEL: I think that's incredibly important Senator.

BLUNT: Thank you Chairman.

BURR: Thank you Senator. Senator King.

KING: Thank you Mr. Chairman. First I've been to some of those garden spots with the committee and I have the greatest admiration and respect for what you and your colleagues have done over the years and do now, that's one of the great responses I have when I come back from one of those trips and -- and that the stations are -- the people in those places are brave and loyal and patriotic Americans. A quick yes or no question, not having to do with what we've been talking about, in January 2017, the IC issued a joint report on the the Russia involvement in the 2016 elections. Do you agree with the findings of that report?

HASPEL: Senator, I do.

KING: Thank you. We've talked a bit about the statement in Mr. Rizzo's book that you had previously run the interrogation program. I understand he has changed his view on that. Your career timeline 2001- 03 Deputy Group Chief Counterterrorism Center; '03 to '04 Senior Level Supervisor Counterterrorism Center; '04 to '05, Deputy Chief National Resources Division. In any of those jobs, were you in a supervisory or management capacity in connection with the rendition and -- and interrogation program?

HASPEL: Senator, we'll be able to go over and I know you -- you have some of this information, but we'll be able to go over any of my classified assignments in this afternoon session and I can talk about that. Just to be clear, Mr. Rizzo didn't change his view; he was wrong and he issued a correction.

KING: Who's deciding what's classified what isn't in terms of what's released to this committee?

HASPEL: Senator, we are following the existing guidelines. There are very...

KING: Who is deciding?

HASPEL: We are following the existing guide...

KING: Who is we?

HASPEL: Well, I have chosen to follow the guidelines that exist for the RDI...

KING: You are making the classification decisions about what material --

[11:15:00]

-- should be released to this committee?

HASPEL: I am electing not to make an exception for myself, but I am adhering to existing RDI guidelines. If I may...

KING: That's -- that's fine. I -- I just wanted to understand that. With regard to the table -- the cable, Mr. Rodriguez said that he asked you to ask two questions of the lawyers the day before the drafting of the cable. One was did -- was it legal to destroy the tapes, second, did he have the authority? Did you mention to those lawyers the intention to issue a cable that would destroy the tapes when you asked those two questions or were those the only questions you asked?

HASPEL: No, Senator, I explained that Mr. Rodriguez wanted to get resolution on this issue and that he was planning to have a conversation with the director about it and he needed to have revalidation of those two points.

KING: And when you drafted the cable, is that correct?

HASPEL: Yes at his request.

KING: Isn't it common practice in the CIA when a cable particularly of this importance is drafted that there could be copied to various parts of the legal establishment within the CIA and was it -- was that done in this case? Was that cable copy to Mr. Rizzo or other lawyers within the agency?

HASPEL: Senator, there was there was robust coordination with the lawyers at CIA...

KING: Were they copied on the cable?

HASPEL: Mr. Rodriguez chose not to copy the lawyers on the cable because he took the decision on his own authority and he wanted to take responsibility for it. He's been very clear and up front about that.

KING: And you were aware because you drafted the cable that the lawyers weren't copied on the cable?

HASPEL: But I -- I knew that the lawyers had been consulted in a meeting and -- and consulted over many times over three years.

KING: In May 2005, Mr. Rizzo reports, "I told Jose and his Chief of Staff," that was you, is that correct? "I can't recall if I talked to them separately or together. They were crestfallen because they were now on notice that the DNI, two successive White House counsels and the vice president's top lawyer had weighed in strongly against destroying the tapes." Do you recall that conversation?

HASPEL: Senator, I don't recall that specific conversation. However, I was aware that there were some objections and that is why that Jose was going to go back to the Director.

KING: With all respect, those aren't some objections, those are very straightforward prohibitions by your superiors to not destroy the tapes, were they not?

HASPEL: Senator I don't recall that specific conversation.

KING: But you do know, Mr. Morel in the report, which has been released says something similar. He said, "The record is clear that Mr. Rodriguez," and I presume you, "was aware that two White House counsels, the counsel to the Vice President, the DNI, the DCIA and the EPSI (ph) the (inaudible) ranking member had either expressed opposition or reservation about the destruction of tapes."

Did you know that at the time you drafted that cable?

HASPEL: Senator, I don't believe I knew that entire list but I knew there were some objections and that is why we were going back to the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

KING: Final question, was a matter of coincidence that you -- that this decision was made to destroy the tapes in the same week the two major stories appeared in American newspapers. The Levin Amendment was being considered in the McCain amendment was on the floor of the U.S. Senate. Was it a mere coincidence that that was after three years of delay, the decision was taken to destroy the tapes.

HASPEL: Senator, I don't believe in the directorate of operations front office we were aware of legislation; the lawyers may have been aware. I do not believe we were aware.

KING: There's a broader question, not -- not legislation. I'm talking about stories in the newspapers. There was a great deal of public interest just that week in the whole interrogation question. Were you aware of that when you made this decision?

HASPEL: Senator, I do not recall being aware of that.

BURR: The Senator's time expired. The Chair would note at this time since there has been a reference to declassification, I just want to draw a distinction that the Durham investigation done by the Department of Justice is not in the purview of the Central Intelligence Agency. Any decision to declassify or keep classified is a Department of Justice decision and I just wanted to separate that from the discussions about Ms. Haspel's background at the agency.

With that, the chair recognizes Senator Lankford.

LANKFORD: Mr. Chairman, thank you very much. Ms. Haspel, thank you, for your over three decades of work for our nation. The lack of recognition that you've had for three decades from our nation because you've served in a way that no one has seen. So, this is an opportunity we get to be able to say thank you to you for a lot of years of a lot of service, being able to protect our nation.

[11:20:00]

It's also pretty remarkable, in some of the dialogue today, as I go through the very long list of people that have recommended you and that are, both, Republican and Democrat. And to be able to see the reports that have been by the Inspector's General about you, about previous DOJ about you, that have cleared you of any concerns and that have reaffirmed you. And whether it is President Obama's Director of the CIA John Brennan, or whether it was Jim Clapper, Director of National Intelligence for President Obama.

Henry Kissinger, John McLaughlin, Frank -- I'm sorry, Mike Morrell, Mike Mukasey, John Negroponte, Leon Panetta, George Tenet, the list goes on and on of people that have looked at your record and that have examined and said you'd be a qualified leader for that. That speaks well of your history and of your leadership and we appreciate that very much.

Let me ask you a little bit about some ongoing threats that are coming at us, we haven't had much time to talk about, today. Let's talk about the very serious counter narcotics threat that's coming at us and some of the changing situations that happening in our hemisphere, dealing with drug trafficking organizations, international drug trafficking, in particular. What do you sense is a role the CIA should have in the ongoing work to be able to do counter narcotics work in our hemisphere?

HASPEL: Senator, thank you very much for that question and you've been a big supporter of CIA's counter narcotics work, but when I returned from my overseas posting in early 2017, I was, frankly, shocked at what I saw was happening in our country. Particularly, in places like my home state of Kentucky where there's a real crisis, but I think the number is 63,000 Americans we lost last year. We're losing 115 Americans a day.

That seems to me, to be an extraordinary crisis for our country. I, I, I would like to talk about this, if we could, some this afternoon, but, as you know, CIA does have a fairly modest program to try and stock the flow of drugs form coming across our southern border, heroin, cocaine and fentanyl. We work very closely in Central America and Latin America to try and stop that flow.

I've been talking to our team at CIA Headquarters about this for several months. I've asked them to come up with some options to grow that program. We have extraordinary support for that program on this committee, but I think, in light of the fact, that we're losing 115 Americans a day, that we're losing almost a generation, in some places, that we have to do more. CIA is not the primary agency, but we can do a lot, but it has to be a whole of government effort.

LANKFORD: All right, so, flip on that into the cyber activities and some of the cyber threats we have. Some of the cyber threats are changing internationally. They -- there were criminal gangs in other countries that were trying to steal credit cards, steal information and to be able to sell that out there.

Now there are some governments that are using the criminal gangs in their own country and have become this strange hybrid that's out there between a criminal gang, sometimes, and a government entity at other times. And we are very dependent on trying to be able to identify where these threats are coming from and who those threats are coming from.

How -- what is need with CIA and what do you anticipate would be the need and to be able to help our nation be able to determine what the threats are and where they're coming from?

HASPEL: Senator, you're quite right that it's a growing threat and it's another area where you have to have a whole of government effort and it's a very murky world, as you point out. But China, Russia, Iran and North Korea have very aggressive, offensive cyber programs, both, to steal secrets, but also, in some cases, to earn illicit money.

CIA can, probably, make the biggest contribution, in collection, about these other countries activities and various groups activities so that we can inform the U.S. government agencies that have to mount our defense. And every -- everyone in the U.S. government has been struggling, as all western governments are, on what is the most effective way to organize yourself for the -- for cyber defense.

We're still working on that, but CIA has a big role. It's another area that I'd like to amplify on a bit, this afternoon, if I have the opportunity.

LANKFORD: I will look forward to that. I yield back.

BURR: Senator Manchin.

MANCHIN: Ms. Haspel, I wanted to thank you, first of all, for your service to our country and, also, I thank you for your efforts on drugs. We are ground zero in West Virginia and we appreciate -- we need everybody in this fight because it is a war and we must win it. Let me ask the first, what was your thoughts and greatest concerns for the United States of America after the 9/11 attack?

HASPEL: I think for, probably, every American it was also surreal, --

[11:25:00]

-- but what I was very worried about, and we weren't wrong about this, is that other attacks were being planned. So, I think everyone in the U.S. government, probably across the board, but certainly in the intelligence community and FBI, we all felt that we had let the American people down, somehow. We didn't know these attacks were coming and it was very important to identify who headed -- who was behind these attacks and stop future attacks.

MANCHIN: I think back on that day and I remember it very vividly as if it was just happening this morning, but I remember that the only thing I cared about, first of all, -- my first thought, was anybody in my family harmed that day? Next, anyone that I might have known or related to or thought about or have acquaintances with? Next of all, my final thought was, was any other Americans harmed. That's all I cared about. How -- what was this doing and what (inaudible).

I thought about the history of Pearl Harbor. How did we react as a nation after Pearl Harbor? I remember the cruel and unusual internment of Japanese-Americans, and we've never gone down that road again, and our thought process would have been there. But let me go another step further.

After 9/11, had any laws or rules for, say, procedure changed because of the attacks -- of those attacks? Any -- did we change any procedures after that? You're saying you would never do it now, you said you would say no to the president, because that's where were going, that's not where you want the CIA to be. Were those changed after that?

HASPEL: Senator, I'm not sure I understand, exactly, but we're -- CIA does not do interrogations. We, historically, have not done interrogations and we don't do interrogations, today.

MANCHIN: Let me go this direction, are there any other tapes that would reveal agents identities that have been destroyed and is that the standard procedure? Or are there any tapes of interrogation that haven't been destroyed that you -- of your knowledge?

HASPEL: Senator, probably, I don't know. I don't know if there are any other tapes. I don't believe there are any other tapes associated with a particular interrogation activity that was on the 92 tapes, but I simply don't know if there are any other video tapes of any other activity.

MANCHIN: And then, we'll go into this. Explain why you feel so strongly that the CIA should not be an interrogation business, and would it have anything to do with basically the makeup of the CIA with -- with the appointments -- appointment to the -- your appointment now for -- for that versus the code of conduct for the military. Is there a difference of why you think that the CIA should not be in that business, and why it should be done in the military?

HASPEL: That's a great question. CIA historically has not done interrogations. We don't have interrogators, so we just don't have any expertise.

MANCHIN: I'm saying (ph) most of the questions have been directed to you has been because of that.

HASPEL: Yes that's right. And why DOD of course, does do battlefield interrogations, and that is why we have the Army Field Manual. We have very clear legal and policy guidance for those DOD interrogations which I support. And then of course the FBI has its own authorities for interviewing terrorist suspects, and then as we mentioned, we have the high-value interrogation group, and CIA as part of that; we support that was substantive expertise about a particular group or an individual, but we don't conduct interrogation.

MANCHIN: And I know you stated strongly that's why you would be -- you feel very compelled to tell the president, no, this is not something we do and it's not our line of work.

HASPEL: I just think there are other U.S. government entities that are suited to holding detainees, and that isn't CIA.

MANCHIN: Let me say this about the CIA -- and being on this committee for one year and on Armed Services for six years prior to that. When I speak to the West Virginia citizens today, I'll -- I -- I brag about what you all do in the clandestine services and the people they provide to serve -- for our country to keep us safe.

I have never, ever seen the quality of people at that level to make the sacrifices they make and to -- to make sure that they understand the importance and how successful and how good they are, is that for a country that has a target on its back the way United States has had since 9/11, and probably will for long time. To be as safe as we have in the most troubled world, in the most dangerous world, with the terrorist mentality, I want to thank you on behalf of the West Virginian in this country for the job you all do.

HASPEL: Thank you, Senator.

BURR: Thanks, senator. Senator Cotton. COTTON: Thank you, Mrs. Haspel for your many decades of service to our country and for taking on this new role, despite the accusations entirely false, you know that you would face from some of my colleagues in the Senate and from the media. Some of these protesters we've seen here today. I'm very grateful to you as I know that all the men and women at the CIA are grateful.

I have to clear up some of the things that have been said here before. Senator Warner said that he worried about the message we would be sending --

[11:30:00]

-- if we confirmed you to the director of CIA.