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With Chance to Denounce Torture, Why Have These Democrats Not Said They Are a "No" on Haspel?

"What kind of #Resistance refuses to stop an actual torturer chosen by Donald Trump from being promoted to head the most powerful spy agency in the world?"

Members of Code Pink for Peace protest before Central Intelligence Agency acting Director Gina Haspel's confirmation hearing to become the next CIA director before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing in the Hart Senate Office Building May 9, 2018 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

In the wake of her refusal to condemn torture as immoral and her repeated denials that the CIA has ever tortured anyone during her "despicable" Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Wednesday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was among the latest to announce his opposition to Gina Haspel—President Donald Trump's pick to lead the spy agency—in a statement on Thursday, raising the question of where the rest of the Democratic caucus stands on her nomination.

"We need a new CIA director who is committed to the rule of law and will heed the advice of U.S. military leaders who vigorously oppose torture and uphold the values that have made us a great and respected nation," Sanders said. "Ms. Haspel is the wrong choice to lead the CIA, and I will oppose her nomination."

In addition to Sanders and Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), ten Senate Democrats and two Republicans—Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.)—have said they oppose Haspel because of her role in the CIA's Bush-era torture program.

"The United States is a country that tortures people. We did in back in the Bush administration and we'll do it again, if you scare us deeply enough."
—Charles Pierce, Esquire

The ten Democratic senators who have said they will vote against Haspel are: Martin Heinrich (N.M.), Ed Markey (Mass.), Brian Schatz (Hawaii), Bob Casey (Penn.), Kamala Harris (Calif.), Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Jon Tester (Mont.), Tammy Duckworth (Ill.), Ron Wyden (Ore.), and Elizabeth Warren (Mass.).

As of this writing, thirty-six Democrats have yet to say whether they will oppose Haspel, and one—Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.)—has said he will vote yes.

As The Intercept's Glenn Greenwald noted in a column on Wednesday, "Democrats have the power to block a torturer and evidence-destroyer from becoming Trump's CIA director" if they fully unite against Haspel and Paul keeps his word and votes no—which seems less likely given his decision to cave to Trump and vote to confirm Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

"That Trump chose someone with one of the most gruesome torture histories to lead the CIA is certainly revealing about who he is," Greenwald writes. "And if the Democrats cannot unite to stop that, that will be further evidence of what they are. What kind of #Resistance refuses to stop an actual torturer chosen by Donald Trump from being promoted to head the most powerful spy agency in the world?"

While some have suggested they are leaning toward opposing, here are the Democrats who have yet to say definitively that they will vote "no":

Sen. Claire McCaskill (Mo.)
Sen. Mazie Hirono (Hawaii)
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.)
Sen. Bob Menendez (N.J.)
Sen. Joe Donnelly (Ind.)
Sen. Patrick Leahy (Vt.)
Sen. Patty Murray (Wash.)
Sen. Dick Durbin (Ill.)
Sen. Jack Reed (R.I.)
Sen. Chuck Schumer (N.Y.)
Sen. Bill Nelson (Fla.)
Sen. Tom Carper (Del.)
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (Mich.)
 
Sen. Ben Cardin (Md.)
Sen. Sherrod Brown (Ohio)
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.)
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.)
Sen. Tom Udall (N.M.)
Sen. Chris Murphy (Conn.)
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.)
Sen. Mark Warner (Va.)
Sen. Jeff Merkley (Ore.)
Sen. Michael Bennet (Colo.)
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.)
Sen. Tina Smith (Minn.)
 
Sen. Chris Coons (Del.)
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (Conn.)
Sen. Tammy Baldwin (Wis.)
Sen. Doug Jones (Ala.)
Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (Nev.)
Sen. Maggie Hassan (N.H.)
Sen. Chris Van Hollen (Md.)
Sen. Gary Peters (Mich.)
Sen. Cory Booker (N.J.)
Sen. Tim Kaine (Va.)
Sen. Maria Cantwell (Wash.)

Following the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Wednesday, Esquire's Charles Pierce noted that Haspel and the chorus of ex-intelligence officials loudly backing her nomination put on display "one basic message" about the U.S. as a nation.

"The United States is a country that tortures people," Pierce writes. "It is also a country that arranges for other countries to torture people."

And, particularly if Haspel is rubberstamped by the Senate with Democratic help, the U.S. will continue to torture.

"We did in back in the Bush administration and we'll do it again, if you scare us deeply enough and there are enough hack lawyers in the Department of Justice and the White House Counsel’s office to draft memos to cover our asses," Pierce concludes.

As NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden declared Wednesday in response to her testimony before lawmakers: "Questions of Haspel's character miss the point: she was already tested. The only morals in question today are our own."

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