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'Beyond Shameful': Democrats Warner, Heitkamp, and Nelson Announce Support for Torturer Gina Haspel

There are now five Democratic senators "who have made clear they don't give a shit about accountability for torture"

Central Intelligence Agency acting director Gina Haspel shakes hands with Senate Intelligence Committee ranking member Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) before her confirmation hearing to become the next CIA director in the Hart Senate Office Building May 9, 2018 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Less than 24 hours after The Intercept reported that Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) cut off access to a classified memo that several lawmakers said contains "disturbing" information about the record of President Donald Trump's CIA pick Gina Haspel, Warner announced in a statement on Tuesday that he will vote to confirm Haspel despite her ongoing refusal to call what the CIA did to people "torture" or condemn it as immoral.

"We will remember who stood strong against torture in November."
—ACLU

"Sen. Mark Warner has been accusing Trump and others of obstruction of justice for months," Trevor Timm, executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, noted on Twitter in response to Warner's announcement. "Yet he's about to vote for Trump's CIA nominee who, in destroying the torture tapes, was directly involved in the clearest case of obstruction of justice in recent memory."

In a tweet on Tuesday denouncing Warner's decision on Tuesday, the ACLU noted: "Sen. Mark Warner called Gina Haspel's lack of transparency 'unacceptable.' Now he says he will vote for Haspel even though her role in torture is being hidden from the public."

"We will remember who stood strong against torture in November," ACLU concluded, "and so will his constituents."

Further bolstering Haspel's chances of sailing through the Senate despite fierce opposition from anti-war groups, former U.S. ambassadors, and victims of the torture program she oversaw, Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) released statements shortly after Warner declaring that they, too, will back Haspel in the final vote on her confirmation, which could come by the end of the week.

The Senate Intelligence Committee is scheduled for a vote on Wednesday, and Haspel is expected to pass with approval.

The two Democratic senators' announcements came shortly after CNN published a letter Haspel sent to Warner on Tuesday insisting that she has "learned the hard lessons since 9/11."

With the Huffington Post headline below as just one example, a lot of news coverage of the letter to Warner falsely claimed that Haspel renounced the agency's "torture" program, though she did nothing of the kind.

No. She did not admit that.

In fact, the word "torture" does not even appear in Haspel's letter. Instead, Haspel deploys the well-worn euphemism "enhanced interrogation" and laments that CIA officers and America's "standing in the world" were harmed by the CIA's brutal tactics—but says nothing about the gruesome harm inflicted upon the CIA's detainees.

Taking aim at Warner's credulous acceptance of the narrative spun by Haspel and the CIA—which has waged an unprecedented propaganda campaign in support of her candidacy—author and activist Naomi Klein asked, "Do these people not understand that it is the actual job of a spy to deceive people?"

In total, Haspel now has the backing of four Democrats: Warner, Heitkamp, Nelson, Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).

As The Intercept's Jeremy Scahill succinctly put it:

If these five Democrats remain firm in their support for Haspel, only four or more Republican defections will be enough to sink her nomination. As of this writing, the only Republicans who have signaled their opposition to Haspel are Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.), who is unlikely to vote as he undergoes cancer treatment.

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