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Despite Torture-Loving Pasts, Schumer Not Pushing Democrats to Oppose Pompeo or Haspel

Trump's nominees for secretary of state and CIA director have alarming pasts, but the Senate Minority Leader isn't encouraging his party to oppose their nominations

The official portrait of CIA deputy director Gina Haspel, a woman some in her own agency called "Bloody Gina."

The official portrait of CIA deputy director Gina Haspel, a woman some in her own agency called "Bloody Gina."

The Senate's top Democrat is not calling on his fellow party members to oppose President Donald Trump's nominee for secretary of state—torture-praising Mike Pompeo—or his nominee to lead the CIA—"actual torturer" Gina Haspel.

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer of New York made his stance clear to reporters on Tuesday.

Schumer said Pompeo and Haspel face “lots of outstanding questions," but hoped that if Pompeo is confirmed, he "will turn over a new leaf and will start toughening up our policies towards Russia and Putin."

Currently the CIA Director, Pompeo was picked to be the nation's top diplomat following the "twouster" of Rex Tillerson. Trump chose CIA deputy director Haspel to fill Pompeo's shoes at the agency. Both nominations drew criticism from a broad range of groups.

Greenpeace USA Climate Director Naomi Ages, for example, said, "In addition to being a climate denier, like his predecessor, Pompeo is the Koch brothers' shill who will denigrate the United States’ reputation abroad and make us vulnerable to threats at home."

Pompeo has also indicated he is open to the reauthorization of torture, and referred to CIA staff who waterboarded detainees as "patriots."

Haspel, meanwhile, is facing renewed scrutiny by progressive voices, if not by the top Democrat.

According to Vincent Warren, executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), Haspel "should be prosecuted not promoted." Toronto Star columnist Heather Mallick writes that Haspel's "office skill set includes overseeing torture and taunting victims as they lie gasping and near death."

Among those shining a critical light on her background is Jeremy Scahill, author and co-founder of The Intercept. In interview on Democracy Now! Wednesday, Scahill said that "in addition to being involved with the outright torture of people," Haspel was "involved with the destruction of videotapes that were filmed at these black sites that showed, we understand, torture."

Torture whislteblower John Kiriakou told the outlet Wednesday that he and others at the agency called her "Bloody Gina." He explained:

Gina was always very quick and very willing to use force. You know, there was a group of officers in the CIA's Counterterrorism Center, when I was—when I was serving there, who—I hate to even make the accusation out loud, but I'm going to say it: who enjoyed using force. Yeah, everybody knew that torture didn't work. That's not even the issue. Lots of different things work. Was it moral, and was it ethical, and was it legal? I think the answers to those questions are very clearly no. But Gina and people like Gina did it, I think, because they enjoyed doing it. They tortured just for the sake of torture, not for the sake of gathering information.

As Pompeo and Haspel await their confirmation hearings, it's notable that Pompeo ultimately received the backing of 14 Democrats last year when he was nominated to head the CIA.

The new confirmations, the Washington Post reports, are "likely to be hampered but not stymied."

"Haspel’s record is unlikely to destroy her chances of confirmation," the Post continues.

Though some Democratic senators, such as Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), said Haspel's past makes her "unsuitable to serve as CIA director," Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), author of the report that exposed the extent of the CIA's interrogation programs, appeared to defend her.

"She has been, I believe, a good deputy director," Feinstein said, stressing that the interrogation [torture] techniques employed on Haspel's watch were not, at the time, explicitly illegal. "Fortunately the law, thanks to Senator McCain, has been changed, and torture is now illegal in the United States," Feinstein said. "That’s with specificity, and I think that's important. So it's a different day."

The Post also notes that "Pompeo's hard-line positions on Iran are also more in lockstep with Trump."

According to CounterPunch editor Jeffrey St. Clair, that gets to why Schumer isn't actively encouraging his party members to oppose Pompeo's nomination:

Pompeo's confirmation hearing will take place at some point in April;  the date for Haspel's confirmation is not yet know.

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