All of the Senators in today's confirmation hearing for Gina Haspel used the euphemism "interrogation techniques" when referring to the torture they inflicted on prisoners during the Bush administration, today, but those of us who lived through the Bush years remember it for what it is: Naked, brutal torture, and Gina Haspel was right in the thick of it.
Kamala Harris was the most pointed in her questioning, flatly asking Haspel whether she believed the interrogations were immoral. Here is the exchange:
HARRIS: One question i have not heard you answer is do you believe that the previous interrogation techniques were immoral?
HASPEL: Senator, i believe that CIA officers to whom you referred --
HARRIS: It's a yes or no answer. Do you believe the previous interrogation techniques were immoral? I'm not asking do you believe they were legal. I'm asking do you believe they were immoral?
HASPEL: Senator, i believe that CIA did extraordinary work to prevent another attack on this country given the legal tools that we were authorized to use.
HARRIS: Answer yes or no. do you believe in hindsight those techniques were immoral?
HASPEL: What i believe sitting here today is i support the higher moral standard we decided to hold ourselves to.
HARRIS: Will you please answer the question?
HASPEL: Senator, i think I've answered the question.
HARRIS: You've not. Do you believe the previous techniques now armed with hindsight, do you believe they were immoral? Yes or no?
HASPEL: Senator, i believe that we should hold ourselves to the moral standard outlined in the army field manual.
HARRIS: Okay. so i understand that you have not answered the question, but I'm going to move on.
There was some back and forth about whether she should have recused herself from the review of her record to declassify information for the hearing, something which absolutely should have happened. Talk about sanitizing the resumé!
Finally, they came to the end, where Harris flatly asked Haspel if she agrees with Trump's assertion that torture works.
"Senator, I don't believe that torture works," Haspel replied. But, and there's always a Big BUT, right? "I believe as many people, directors who have sat in this chair before me that valuable information was obtained from senior Al Qaeda operatives that allowed us to defend this country and prevent another attack."
Oh. So she's splitting that hair three ways, basically claiming that it wasn't torture at all ,but just some cool, approved interrogation techniques that disgorged "valuable information." Sure.
Harris pounced. "Is that a yes?"
Haspel danced. "No, it's not a yes. We got valuable information from debriefing of Al Qaeda detainees, and I don't think it's knowable whether interrogation techniques played a role in that."
Slick gavotte there, Gina. But no dice. Torture did not do anything but stain the moral character of this country.
Trump has said over and over again that he would not only reinstitute torture, but make it even harsher and more immoral. It sounds like he's got the perfect partner in Haspel.