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Gina Haspel's Senate Confirmation Hearing; Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired May 9, 2018 - 10:30   ET


[10:30:00] SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VICE CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: What about the issue of all of the -- the counsels, the counsel to the vice president, DNI, HIPC, and ranking member, the fact that there was --

GINA HASPEL, CIA DIRECTOR NOMINEE: Senator, I don't know if I was aware of all of those, but I knew there were -- there was disagreement about the issue of the tapes outside the agency and that is why we were working toward a meeting with the then director to talk about those issues and how we address those concerns of people outside the agency. So I was working toward resolution within a process.

WARNER: But would that overhang, I know other members will raise this, the timing seems -- I hope I can get some more clarity on the timing. I want to make sure I take my time, though, and I heard your statement about the fact that if you're confirmed there will never be an interrogation program under your leadership and you addressed the issue of the fact that it is against the law.

The question I have, with the benefit of hindsight, do you believe the program, the interrogation program was consistent with American values?

HASPEL: Senator, as we sit here today, and with some distance between us and the events of 9/11, the Congress and indeed our nation have had an opportunity to have a debate about the interrogation standards we want to use as the United States of America. We have decided to hold ourselves to a stricter moral standard. For DOD that is defined in the army field manual.

I support the United States holding itself to that stricter moral standard and I support the army field manual.

WARNER: But, Miss Haspel, that is answering on a legalistic -- we're asking you to take on a position. I understand with RDI you were downstream, not part of the policy making, but if you're entrusted with this responsibility we need -- I need to at least get a sense of what your moral code says about those kind of actions because there is the potential that this president could ask you to do something.

He obviously believes in these procedures, but even if he asked you to do something that is not directly related to the detention interrogation, but if he asked you to do something that you believe is morally questionable, even if there is an OLC opinion that in effect gives you a get-out-of-jail-free card, what will you do in that action when you are the director of the CIA? HASPEL: Senator, my father's watching today. He served 33 years in

the Air Force. My parents gave me a very strong moral compass. I support the higher moral standard that this country has decided to hold itself to.

I would never, ever take CIA back to an interrogation program. First of all, CIA follows the law. We followed the law then. We follow the law today. I support the law. I wouldn't support a change in the law, but I'll tell you this, I would not put CIA officers at risk by asking them to undertake risky, controversial activity again.

WARNER: Miss Haspel, my question is this. On a going forward basis, if this president asked you to do something that you find morally objectionable, even if there is an OLC opinion, what will you do? Will you carry that out -- that order or not? I mean, we're entrusting you in a very different position if you're confirmed. I just need to know what you --

HASPEL: Senator --

WARNER: Your response to that would be.

HASPEL: My moral compass is strong. I would not allow CIA to undertake activity that I thought was immoral, even if it was technically legal. I would absolutely not permit it.

WARNER: So you would not follow the order if you felt it was --

HASPEL: No. I believe that CIA must undertake activities that are consistent with American values. America is looked at all over the world as an example to everyone else in the world and we have to uphold that and CIA is included in that.

WARNER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

BURR: Senator Risch?

SEN. JAMES RISCH (R), IDAHO: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

RISCH: Miss Haspel, thank you for undertaking this and thank you for your many years of service work at CIA. For my colleagues, I'm going to tell you right at the outset, I'm going to support this nomination. I don't take that lightly. I've had the opportunity to review all the materials that have been provided but more importantly than that I have known Miss Haspel for the 10 years I've been on this committee and have had the opportunity to work with her over those years and even visited you out in the field when you were at the garden spots that --


HASPEL: I remember.

[10:35:01] RISCH: Right. In any event, I have -- for my colleagues, I can report to you that during this time I have always found Miss Haspel to be open, to be forthcoming, and to be truthful, and that is incredibly important as we exercise the things that we have to do as far as authorizing, as far as financing, and as far as oversight of what this really, really important work is that the CIA does.

So for that, Miss Haspel, you will be rewarded with my vote and I feel very comfortable about that, and I sincerely appreciate your openness as we've met over the years, and I've had the opportunity to ask you about the things that I needed to know as I discharge my obligations.

I'm also persuaded greatly by the former directors, both Republicans and Democrats who are enthusiastically supporting your appointment to this. I think that is very important. I am also persuaded by something that I think other members of this committee have probably run across and that is we all from this committee deal regularly with our partners in intel from foreign countries.

As you know, that's critically important to the job of the CIA and the other 16 intelligence agencies, those relationships, those contacts, those dealings we have with those foreign agencies are very important, and I have to tell you that uniformly, people who I have discussed your taking on this job have been very enthusiastic about it, and they know you, they trust you, and the trust of this agency is so important when we deal with the Five Eyes or amongst the Five Eyes or with other intelligence partners so thank you for that.

Also, I deal with a lot of the employees at the CIA. They are incredibly enthusiastic about your appointment to this. So thank you for that.

For the American people who are watching this, I can tell you that everybody sitting on this side of the table regularly hear things that cause us to not sleep very well at night. As the head of this agency I can tell you I will sleep better at night knowing you're directing these efforts. So thank you for that.

Thank you for undertaking what you are undertaking. I know that you have thought about this carefully. If the press reports are right you've been up and down a little bit on this, but the American people will be very grateful for your service.

Let me ask a question as we close here. Over the 10 years, I came here just as the investigation on the interrogation thing was starting and I participated, other members of the committee here participated in that, and there was a real tension between not just the CIA, but the other intelligence agencies because of the way the oversight was being done by this committee.

My impression is, and it's a clear impression that the relationship between the agency, the CIA, and the other intelligence agencies has evolved to a very different place than where it was when I first got here. Could you talk about that a little bit, please?

HASPEL: Thank you for that question, Senator. I think it's a very important question. When Mike Pompeo and I took the reins at Langley about 15 months ago we decided to concentrate on four initiatives, and one of those is partnership and it involves two areas. First, our partnership with the other IC partners in the U.S.

government, but even more broadly than that. There are many important partnerships for CIA, and as you say, those partnerships are critical because it's a complex world. There is no more important partnership than the one between CIA and DOD.

I have had the absolute honor and privilege to sit at the table with Secretary Mattis and General Dunford these last 15 months, and to work with the JSOC commanders and the other combatant commanders. I don't think that very important relationship has ever been in a better place.

Likewise, NSA is our sister agency. We are very close, and of course, our relationship with the Federal Bureau of Investigation is critical for the national security of this country, but you mentioned something else that's important, and it's a bit of an unheralded story.

[10:40:05] But the intelligence services of our closest allies do amazing things for the national security of this country each and every day, and I can't talk very much about it in this open session, but they do incredible things that advance our national security on the terrorism and proliferation fronts in particular, and we owe a great deal of gratitude to those allies.

RISCH: Thank you for that.

BURR: Senator Feinstein?

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Good morning, Miss Haspel.

HASPEL: Good morning, Miss Feinstein.

FEINSTEIN: While many nominees have classified backgrounds you are very unique. You have 30 years of undercover experience. Accordingly, we asked the agency that your records be declassified. I think I signed three letters in that regard to make an informed decision and because the public should be aware of the background of its leaders.

Instead, the CIA selectively declassified only small pieces of information to bolster your nomination while keeping damaging information under wraps. Giving the CIA's refusal to make your record public I am very limited in what I can say. And I think as you know, I like you personally very much.

This is probably the most difficult hearing in my more than two decades I have ever sat in, but let me begin. In his memoir former CIA counsel general John Rizzo described how in 2005 Jose Rodriguez was promoted to be deputy CIA director for operations and installed as his chief of staff an officer from the counterterrorist center who had previously run the interrogation program. Is that you?

HASPEL: Senator, I am so pleased you asked me that question.

FEINSTEIN: Yes or no will do. HASPEL: No. And for the record, if you have your staff check, Mr.

Rizzo has issued a correction. It is true that it is hard for --

FEINSTEIN: You see, my understanding --

HASPEL: That is not accurate.

FEINSTEIN: -- recently confirmed that it was you.

HASPEL: No. He issued a correction. When people write books -- I didn't read Mr. Rizzo's books, so I didn't even know that was out there. Mr. Rizzo, and actually I read about it in "The Washington Post" last night. Eric Wimpel, I believe, wrote a story, talking about the failure to -- of certain organizations to correct their facts and that was one of them, and he noted that Mr. Rizzo about 10 days ago, he was wrong. He didn't fact check and that has been corrected. I would never even served in that department nor was I the head of it.

FEINSTEIN: Well, let me read directly his quote from the book. "Several weeks later Porter promoted Jose Rodriguez to the position of deputy director for operations. Jim Pavitt's former job. Once more Jose installed as his chief of staff an officer from the counterterrorist center who had previously run the interrogation program. Between them, they were the staunchest advocates inside the building for destroying the tapes."

HASPEL: Senator, I did not run the interrogation department. In fact, I was not even read into the interrogation program until it had been up and running for a year. I never served --

FEINSTEIN: Were you an advocate for destroying the tapes?

HASPEL: Senator, I absolutely was an advocate if we could within and conforming to U.S. law and if we could get policy concurrence to eliminate the security risk posed to our officers by those tapes and we can --

FEINSTEIN: Were you aware of what those tapes contained?


HASPEL: No. I never watched the tapes, but I understood --


HASPEL: -- that our officers' faces were on them and that was very dangerous at a time when there were unauthorized disclosures that were exposing the program.

FEINSTEIN: But it also exposed how the program was conducted because they were tapes of the actual interrogation of certain -- of 92 detainees, as I understand it.

HASPEL: No. The tapes were recordings of only one detainee. It was 92 tapes of one detainee. FEINSTEIN: OK. All right. Well, thank you for that. Let me -- in

November and December of 2002, did you oversee the enhanced interrogation of Al Nashiri which included the use of the waterboard as publicly reported, yes or no?

[10:45:11] HASPEL: Senator, anything about my classified assignment history throughout my 33 years we can talk about in this afternoon's classified session. There are guidelines on, as you know, existing classification guidelines and I should go back to your first point which was very, very important about why we haven't declassified more about my history.

There are existing classification guidelines that apply to operational activity of any officer. It has been suggested to me by my team that if we tried to declassify some of my operational history it would help my nomination. I said that we could not do that. It is very important that the director of the Central Intelligence Agency adhere to the same classification guidelines that all employees must adhere to because there are very good reason for those classification guidelines.

Exposing operational information can be damaging to sources and methods, as you know, but there is also a physical risk to officers who go out to the far ends of the globe and conduct dangerous missions and they believe that their participation in those dangerous missions will be protected. It would be a security risk if we started declassifying associations between CIA officers and particular terrorists or terrorist operations.

So I am adhering to the existing guidelines and I believe that it is important and that I could not stand before the CIA if I sought for short-term gain to declassify my operational history.

BURR: The senator's time has expired. Senator Rubio?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Thank you. Miss Haspel, when I joined this committee seven years ago I knew as much about the CIA as the average American. Obviously I know a lot more these days. And much of it can't be shared but there's two things that I can. The first is that it's very easy to sit back and criticize the work of the agency with the benefit of hindsight and the second is that the agency is made up of some of the smartest, most talented professionals that I have ever encountered in any field in my time in public service or beyond.

These are men and women that could be making a lot of money in the private sector, but instead they've chosen to serve our country, many in the shadows, many at the risk of their own lives, all to keep us safe. By the way, they sacrifice this money, this time with their family, this normal life in many cases, in defense of the freedoms, including the freedoms of the protesters who often smear them and the activists who often slander them.

Miss Haspel, you embody everything that I respect and admire about the men and women of the Central Intelligence Agency and I support you not just because of your qualifications, but because I want a young CIA trainee or case officer, I want today's operational officers, I want today's station chiefs, I want today's -- all of these professionals to know that they, too, can one day be sitting where you are sitting today and have the opportunity to lead this agency.

And I would ask if someone like you, with your history, with your record of service and sacrifice, and excellence, if someone like you cannot be confirmed to head this agency then who can? And if someone like you is smeared in this process what message are we sending to young men and women who today are serving our country in the same roles in which you have served our country over the last 30 years?

And I thought it was important for that to be part of the record today because as much as anything else, this hearing is not just about your nomination for me. It is also about the men and women who serve us which I said at the outset you embody the best of the men and women of the Central Intelligence Agency.

On a policy front, I want to ask you about U.S.-China relations. For decades American foreign policy towards China has been rooted on the belief that as they prospered economically they would embrace democracy, they would embrace the global rule of law. That consensus, I think, by all accounts has been catastrophically wrong.

Today China has undertaken -- is undertaking a comprehensive effort to supplant the United States and to undermine us and they've benefitted from the greatest transfer of wealth in history through the theft and the forced transfer of intellectual property. They use unfair trade and other practices to undermine our industrial and technical base, they gather and exploit data at an unrivalled scale, they're building the most capable and well-funded military in the world second to ours.

And so my question, first and foremost, is, is the agency, as it stands today equipped and structured to meet this multi-faceted challenge?

HASPEL: Senator, thank you for that question. One of the first things Mike Pompeo and I looked at when I returned to the agency from overseas in early 2017 is how we're doing on the hard targets. That's what you're talking about, China, Iran, Russia, North Korea.

[10:50:07] Of course, our investment in counterterrorism has to be very significant. We have to be vigilant and we can't take our eyes off that ball, but there are more strategic threats and you talked about one of them. China. China's rise as a global power, CIA has a very important role in monitoring China's rise as the global power. China's efforts to diminish U.S. influence not only in the Pacific, but all around the world.

China's unfair trade practices and China's overt and illicit efforts to still U.S. technology and knowhow and intellectual property. We, with the support of this committee, are raising our investment on each of these hard targets. We have incredible expertise on China at the agency. It is a very strong team. I am very proud of our analysts. It is a subject that a week doesn't go by that either the president asks for an expert briefing or Secretary Mattis asks for someone to come over and brief him on China issues. We have a good program, but your more general point is that we have to

-- we have to do more and we have to invest more on each of these hard targets.

RUBIO: Well, I recently introduced legislation with Senator Cotton that would block the U.S. government from buying or leasing telecommunication equipment from Huawei or ZTE Corporation. Beyond government purchase, I would ask you just as a -- with the citizens that are watching, if you were just an everyday American or even someone involved in any sort of sensitive work, would you purchase a Huawei phone or connect your phone or computer to a Huawei or ZTE network?

HASPEL: Well, Senator, as I mentioned I don't even have a social media account, but I wouldn't use Huawei products.

RUBIO: And --

BURR: Senator's time has expired. Thank you. Senator Wyden?

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

SEN. RON WYDEN (D), OREGON: Miss Haspel, thank you very much for your courtesy in meeting with me yesterday. However, I regret to have to say there is no greater indictment of this nomination process than the fact that you are deciding what the country gets to know about you and what it doesn't. And so far the American people have only been given information that is designed to help you get confirmed. Everything else has been classified.

So I've got some questions, I think they're fairly short and some I hope we can do yes or no. Now you publicly released the Morel report which some have cited as reflecting favorably about your involvement in the destruction of interrogation tapes.

Do you have any objection this morning to the public release of the Durham investigation which would give the American people more information on the same topic and which does not come from the CIA?

HASPEL: Senator, just to be clear, the request for the declassification of the Morel memo was in response to a member on this committee. I've not read the Durham report and I don't know the classification. So let me take that for the record, if I may.

WYDEN: But do you have any objection?

HASPEL: Well, I haven't seen it, so I haven't read it. So I don't know.

WYDEN: Well, I'm going to ask you about -- in the classified session, but I think in the name of fairness with respect to your role on these issues, this ought to be made public just the way the Morel report was.

Now on Sunday, "The Washington Post" reported that unnamed officials were pushing back against accusations that you supported torture in and one of our biggest papers in the country. Between 2005 and 2007 the program was winding down. The CIA was capturing fewer detainees and waterboarding was no longer approved. During that time, did you ever call for the program to be continued or expanded?

HASPEL: Senator, I think like all of us who were in the counterterrorism center and working at CIA and those years after 9/11, we all believed in our work. We were committed, we had been charged with making sure the country wasn't attacked again, and we had been informed that the techniques in CIA's program were legal and authorized by the highest legal authority in our country and also the president.

So I believe I and my colleagues in the counterterrorism center were working as hard as we could with the tools that we were given to make sure that we were successful in our mission.

WYDEN: My time is short and that respectfully is not responsive to the question.

[10:55:03] That was a period where the agency was kept with fewer detainees, waterboarding was no longer approved and especially in light of that "Washington Post" story I would really like to have on the record whether you ever called for the program to be continued which it sure sounds to me like your answer suggests it.

You said well, we were doing our job. It ought to be continued. That troubles me very much because you were the chief of staff to the deputy director for operations in a senior position. So I'm quite troubled by that response.

HASPEL: Senator, may I just say that I haven't -- I don't know which "Washington Post" story you're referring to, but let me say this about myself. After 9/11 I didn't look to go sit on the Swiss desk. I stepped up. I was not on the sidelines. I was on the front lines in the Cold War and I was on the front lines in the fight against al Qaeda.

WYDEN: I respect that.

HASPEL: I am very proud of the fact that we captured the perpetrator of 9/11 Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. I think we did extraordinary work. To me, the tragedy is that the controversy surrounding the interrogation program which as I've already indicated to Senator Warner, I fully understand that, but it has cast a shadow over what has been a major contribution to protecting this country.

WYDEN: I respect a number of those points. I just am trying to get some answers here to questions that I think are particularly relevant. According to a press story today about the destruction of the interrogation videotapes, Jose Rodriguez told you in advance that he was going to take matters into his own hands. Did that conversation happen?

HASPEL: Senator, no, it did not. Mr. Rodriguez indicated to me that he planned to discuss it with the then-director Goss. WYDEN: Let me see if I can get one last in on it. When did you

become aware that the cable authorizing the destruction of the interrogation videotapes had been sent?

HASPEL: Senator, as chief of staff, it's a desk-bound job so I was at my desk at least 12 hours every day and I can see my computer screen so it was shortly after Mr. Rodriguez who sat right across the hall from me had released the cable.

WYDEN: I'm over my time, I'll ask some more about this in the classified session. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

BURR: Senator Collins.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Senator Jack Reid and I co-sponsored the McCain-Feinstein bill that banned waterboarding and other enhanced interrogation techniques because we viewed them as contrary to American values and tantamount to torture. So let me ask you a series of questions. First, were you involved in any way in the creation of the enhanced interrogation program?

HASPEL: Senator, I was not, and I was not read into the program until about a year into its existence.

COLLINS: Were you a senior manager at the CIA at the time that the program was created?

HASPEL: No. I had just returned from an overseas posting. I was a GS-15. I was not yet a member of the senior executive service. I was assigned as a deputy group chief. That's pretty far down the totem pole in a program that had nothing to do with the detention and interrogation program.

COLLINS: You said that the program had already been in effect for some time before you were read into it. What was your reaction when you learned of the program?

HASPEL: Senator, it was a new subject for me. We -- as I said, we lacked interrogation expertise at the agency. We didn't have interrogators. I was told that interrogation expert had designed the program, that the highest legal authority in the United States had approved it, and that the president of the United States had approved it as well as a trusted leadership at the Central Intelligence Agency.

COLLINS: Have your views of the program evolved in the years following the attacks on our country on 9/11?

HASPEL: Senator, they have. I think it's very important. I think for any leader, as you go through a career you have to learn the leadership lessons. 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, but as I mentioned to Senator Warner, this country has had the opportunity to reflect because we have some space.

We're not fearing another attack and we have deliberated about the standard we want to use in interrogations and that is the army field manual. The very important thing to know 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.