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CIA Nominee Gina Haspel Faces Senate Intelligence Committee; Haspel: "Clear" CIA was "not prepared" for Interrogation Program. Aired 10-10:30a ET
Aired May 9, 2018 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Let's bring back in our panel. Mark Preston, to you, we just heard from the vice chairman, Democratic Senator Mark Warner who praised her service to this country but also talked about some significant questions. Namely the torture program that (INAUDIBLE) - 2005. And he has acknowledged her history with the program and she has said that she would not allow it again under the leadership of the CIA. But then he says, I appreciate that, but that's not enough. Your take?
MARK PRESTON, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, a couple of things. One is tough questioning that she's going to get today at this hearing does not necessarily mean she's not going to get the votes on the Senate floor. We should note that she does have the backing of Obama- era acclaimed officers who all think that she's qualified for this. It's also worth noting that she's an internal hire. She's somebody who is getting promoted. And internally, she has the support of those she would be leading. That's very critical and I don't think we make enough of that. But what I do think is important, too, is that every question we hear from Democrats today is going to be through the prism of politics, whether that the proxy question against the Trump administration or whether that has to do with the 2018 midterms or the 2020 presidential. Everybody has a stake in this. This all have different reasons for it.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And look, when they ask about Russia, that may be the case here, but I do think, Mark, that there are questions dating back more than a decade that in a way transcend current partisan politics and it's a debate that we've seen for a long, long time that many senators who are in this committee, including Dianne Feinstein have been on different sides or have evolved over time. Admiral Kirby, to your point, you said you wanted to hear exactly what she says about certain things and what I find interesting about this hearing as we look at Evan Bayh, former senator from Indiana, introducing Gina Haspel. What I find so interesting about this hearing is this is one of the few times that the way she answers and exactly what she says really does matter.
REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY (RET), CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: Yes, I couldn't agree more, John. I think they're going to be looking even those who are inclined to want to support her. I think they're going to be looking for her to at least show some contrition personally for her involvement in those dark days. And back to Mark's point which I think is excellent about the politics here. What also makes it interesting is she's a careerist. Ando so, usually having a career foreign service or career military, career intel person in the job, gives you comfort, right, no matter what cited out or you want because they're above her or out of politics. In this case, it's actually quite the opposite because there's a belief that perhaps she'll be too easily swayed by Donald Trump, because she's a careerist, she's not a political infighter, she might not be as bold to stand up to power like that. And so it's going to be interesting to see how she handles those kinds of questions, too.
HARLOW: We did have one of her former colleagues at the CIA on the show yesterday, who described her as someone with a spine of steel, who would stand up to the president, but it's a good point. Admiral, to you, we do know that members of this committee got two boxes physically dropped off to them with more information about her career at the CIA earlier this week. We don't know what was in them, what questions those documents answered and how that will affect the questions they have for her today.
We are watching. They're just finishing up the introduction of her. So we're going to take a quick break. We'll be back as soon as she begins to speak.
[10:07:00] BERMAN: CIA director nominee Gina Haspel taking the oath.
SEN. RICHARD BURR (R), NORTH CAROLINA, CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Thank you. Please be seated.
Miss Haspel, before we move to your statement, I'll ask you to answer five standard questions the committee poses to each nominee who appears before us. They just require a simple yes or no answer for the record. One, do you agree to appear before the committee here or in any other venue when invited?
GINA HASPEL, CIA DIRECTOR NOMIMEE: I do.
BURR: Two, if confirmed, do you agree to send officials from your office to appear before the committee and designated staff when invited?
HASPEL: I do.
BURR: Three, do you agree to provide documents or any other materials requested by the committee in order to carry out its oversight and legislative responsibilities?
HASPEL: I do.
BURR: Four, will you both ensure that your office and your staff provide such materials to the committee when requested?
HASPEL: I will. BURR: And five, do you agree to inform and fully brief to the fullest extent possible all members of the committee of intelligence activities and covert action rather than only the chair and the vice chairman?
HASPEL: I do.
BURR: Thank you very much. We'll now proceed to your opening statement, Miss Haspel. The floor is yours.
HASPEL: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Burr, Vice Chairman Warner, members of the committee: Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today. I am here because I have been nominated to lead the extraordinary men and women at the Central Intelligence Agency - men and women who are our country's silent warriors. These dedicated professionals spend much of their careers in difficult, far-flung outposts of the globe, striving to make our fellow Americans more secure at home. It has been the privilege of my professional life to be one of those CIA officers.
Now, I have been asked by President Trump to lead this workforce and to continue the work that Mike Pompeo and I began a little more than a year ago, ensuring that CIA is postured to meet the complex challenges our nation faces.
[10:10:10] Those challenges include a changing but still lethal threat from terrorist groups, a nuclear threat against the continental United States from a rogue state, destabilizing Iranian adventurism, an aggressive and sometimes brutal Russia, and the long-term implications of China's ambitions on the global stage.
While these challenges are daunting and offer few easy answers, I am confident the United States and the American people have the resolve to meet them head on. If I am confirmed as Director, you have my solemn commitment that I will position this Agency to provide the intelligence support our country needs to meet the challenges of today, and those of tomorrow.
I welcome the opportunity to introduce myself to the American people for the first time - it is a new experience for me as I spent over 30 years under cover and in the shadows. I don't have any social media accounts, but otherwise I think you will find me to be a typical middle class American - one with a strong sense of right and wrong and one who loves this country.
I was born in Kentucky, and while my family has deep roots there, I was an Air Force "brat" and we followed my father to postings all over the world. My childhood overseas instilled in me a deep love for foreign languages and cultures, but also a deep understanding of the vital role of American leadership in combatting aggression abroad.
I joined the CIA in 1985 as a case officer in the Clandestine Service. From my first days in training, I had a knack for the nuts and bolts of my profession. I excelled in finding and acquiring secret information that I obtained in brush passes, dead drops, or in meetings in dusty back allies of third world capitals. I recall very well my first meeting with a foreign agent. It was on a dark, moonless night with an agent I'd never met before. When I picked him up, he passed me the intelligence and I passed him an extra $500 for the men he led. It was the beginning of an adventure I had only dreamed of.
The men who ran CIA in those days leaned forward in giving me the right opportunities to succeed or fail. When a very tough, old school leader announced that I was his pick to be Chief of Station in a small but important frontier post, a few competitors complained to me directly "Why would they send you?" I owe that leader much for believing in me at a time when few women were given these opportunities. While I could have done without some of the long nights, sleeping on the floor of my station, I was proud of the work we did there including the successful capture of two major terrorists, in the wake of the Africa Embassy bombings, a counter proliferation operation that went our way, and the dismantlement of a local terrorist cell.
Altogether, I have served seven tours in the field -- four as Chief of Station -- including hardship assignments in distant posts and, more recently, in the capital of a major U.S. ally.
By any standard, my life at the Agency - and it has been my life - has exceeded all of my expectations, from that January day when I first took the oath to today. There were few senior women leading at CIA in those days, and we are stronger now as an organization because that picture is changing. I did my part quietly and through hard work to break down some of those barriers. And I was proud to be the first woman to serve as the number-two in the Clandestine Service. It is not my way to trumpet the fact that I am a woman up for the top job at CIA. But I would be remiss in not remarking on it, not least because of the outpouring of support from young women at CIA and a deed across the IC because they consider it a good sign for their own prospects.
My experience and success as an operations officer led to three leadership positions in the Clandestine Service.
[10:15:05] And one year ago, I was asked to serve as Deputy Director of CIA. The reaction of the workforce to a rare nomination of one of their own to be Director, someone who has been in the trenches with them has been overwhelming. I am humbled by their confidence that I can successfully lead this agency and inspired to work harder than ever to maintain that trust.
They know that I don't need time to learn the business of what CIA does. I know CIA like the back of my hand. I know them, I know the threats we face, and I know what we need to be successful in our mission.
I have played a leading role this past year in setting us on the right path and I intend on continuing on that path if I am confirmed as director.
Our strategy starts with strengthening our core business. Collecting intelligence that helps policy makers protect our country and advance American interests around the globe. It includes raising our investment against the most difficult intelligence gaps, putting more officers in the foreign field where our adversaries are, and emphasizing foreign language excellence. And, finally, it involves investing in our partnerships, both within the U.S. government and around the globe.
We must do everything we can to follow through on these investments and to make CIA as effective as it can possibly be, because the American people deserve no less than CIA's best effort.
This is especially true when it comes to confronting threats from North Korea, Iran, Russia, and China. Today, CIA officers are deployed across the globe, sometimes at significant personal risk, collecting critical human and technical intelligence. I have spent my entire career driving operations and, if confirmed, I will be able to leverage that experience beginning on day one.
I knew that accepting the president's nomination would raise questions about CIA classified activities and my career at the agency. I also understand that it is important for the American people to get to know me so they are able to judge my fitness for this position. So over the last few weeks, we have leaned forward to make more information about my record public. We have also shared details on every aspect of my career through classified channels with this committee, as well as with the rest of the Senate.
I think it is important to recall the context of those challenging times immediately following 9/11. For me, I had just returned to Washington from an overseas posting and I reported for duty the morning of 9/11. I knew in my gut when I saw the video of the first plane hitting the tower in Manhattan that it was Bin Laden. I got up and I worked over to the Counterterrorism Center as the CIA compound was evacuated and I volunteered to help. I didn't leave for three years. We worked seven days a week, and I even had friends who postponed weddings and having babies. The men and women of CIA were driven and charged with to preventing another attack. The first boots on the ground in Afghanistan were my colleagues. The first casualty in Afghanistan was a CIA officer and colleague. And it was CIA who identified and captured the mastermind of 9/11 in a brilliant operation. I am proud of our work during that time. The hard lessons we learned from that experience inform my leadership of CIA today.
In light of my counterterrorism experience, I understand that what many people want to know about are my views on CIA's former detention and interrogation program. I have views on this issue, and I want to be clear. Having served in that tumultuous time, I can offer you my personal commitment, clearly and without reservation, that under my leadership, on my watch, CIA will not restart a detention and interrogation program.
CIA has learned some tough lessons from that experience. We were asked to tackle missions that fall outside our expertise.
[10:20:03] For me, there is no better example of implementing lessons learned than what the agency took away from that program. In retrospect it is clear, as the SSCI Majority Report concluded that CIA was not prepared to conduct a detention and interrogation program. Today, the U.S. government has a clear legal and policy framework that governs detentions and interrogations. Specifically, the law provides that no individual in U.S. custody may be subjected to any interrogation technique or approach that is not authorized by and listed in the Army Field Manual. I fully support the detainee treatment required by law, and just as importantly, I will keep CIA focused on our collection and analysis missions that can best leverage the expertise we have at the Agency.
Like I said, we learned important lessons following 9/11. As both a career intelligence officer and as an American citizen, I am a strong believer in the importance of oversight. Simply put, experience has taught us that CIA cannot be effective without the people's trust. And we cannot hope to earn that trust without the accountability that comes with congressional oversight.
If we can't share aspects of our secret work with the public, we should do so with their elected representatives. For CIA, oversight is a vital link to the open society we defend. It's a defining feature of the U.S. Intelligence Community, and one of the many things that distinguishes us from the hostile services we face in the field.
If confirmed as Director, I will uphold the Agency's obligations to Congress and ensure that oversight works on behalf of the American people.
Mr. Chairman, I want to thank you and the Committee for the hard work that is put into the oversight process and for the vital support that this committee provide to the officers at CIA.
CIA has given a lot to me over the past three decades, a calling in service to my country, some real-life adventures, and the profound satisfaction of serving with some of the most talented and honorable men and women in our government.
If confirmed, I hope to repay the debt I owe to this remarkable agency by drawing on my experience. I know what my fellow officers need from me and, I know what our nation needs from CIA. And that is truth, integrity, and courage.
Again, thank you for allowing me the opportunity to appear before you today, and I look forward to your questions.
BURR: Miss Haspel, thank you for that testimony. Let me inform members that we will have a five-minute round of questions. We'll recognize members based upon seniorities. I would ask all members to adhere to the five-minute timeframe, and I would remind members that we are in an open session. Therefore, classified questions and/or answers would not be appropriate for this period. When we've completed the open session we will immediately move to a closed session where every question will be answered, I am certain. The chair recognizes himself for up to five minutes.
Miss Haspel, let's just dig right into it. There's been much debate and much news coverage about Jose Rodriguez, the former director of the National Clandestine Service and his decision to direct a destruction of the detainee interrogation video tapes. Can you describe for members your role in those events?
HASPEL: Senator, yes, I can. In 2005, I believe it was fall of 2005. I was chief of staff to the deputy director for operations that is head of the Clandestine Service. The tape issue had lingered at CIA for a period of about three years. I believe the tapes were made in 2002, and over time, there was a great deal of concern about the security risk posed to CIA officers who were depicted on the tape, those security issues centered on the threat from al Qaeda should those tapes be irresponsibly leaked.
[10:25:03] Mr. Rodriguez, who was the DDO at the time of the deputy director for operations, has been very up front and has made it clear on a number of occasions publicly that he and he alone made the decision to destroy the tapes. I would also make it clear that I did not appear on the tapes as has been mischaracterized in the press. However, as chief of staff and I believe like everyone at the agency at that time, we were extremely concerned about the security risk that was posed to our officers. We were aiming to do two things. To adhere to U.S. law, but at the same time, reach a resolution that would protect our officers. There were numerous legal consultations over a period of years at the agency. Our lawyers were very consistent in saying to us that there was no legal requirement to retain the tapes, no legal impediment to disposing of the tapes. I'm not a lawyer, but I believe the basis for that judgment was the fact that there was a complete and written detailed record of the interrogation. And at CIA, the official record is the cable record. We use that for all of our operations.
There were two reviews done of the tapes to compare them to the written record. One of those was undertaken by the Office of General Council. The second was undertaken by the office of the inspector general. In both cases they found that the written record was detailed, accurate and complete. So the consistent legal advice, it never changed, was that there was no legal requirement to retain the tapes, but there were some policy objections to disposing of the tapes. So our job in the office of the deputy director for operations was to arrange consultations with senior leaders at the agency.
At the time the tapes were destroyed, Mr. Rodriguez asked me to prepare a cable because he was going to have another conversation with then-director of the agency to talk about this issue again. I did so. A couple of days later he released the order, he believed, on his own authority. He took the decision himself, and he said it was based on his own authority. I asked him if he'd had the consultation with the director at the time as planned and he said he decided to take the decision on his own authority.
There were three investigations, three looks at the tapes, inquiries that I know about. One was undertaken by HIPC, the House Oversight Committee. I never saw a report on that. But the chairman at the time said that he found no fault with my actions. There was a Department of Justice investigation that was closed without charges after, I think, more than two years, and then there was an internal investigation of the issue conducted by one of my predecessors, Mr. Morel who found no fault with my actions and that my decisions were consistent with my obligations as an agency officer. BURR: Thank you for that answer. Recognizing my five minutes is now up, I recognize the vice chairman.
SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA, VICE CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I'm going to follow up on the question around the tapes, Miss Haspel. November 4th of 2005 then-Senator Levine introduced legislation to create a commission modelled on the 9/11 commission to look into the agency's treatment of detainees. Three days later you drafted a cable, four days later the tapes were destroyed.
Were you aware of Senator Levin's actions and the timing seems very close to acting on behalf of potential congressional action, and in Mr. Morel's statements there was comment that your superior Mr. Rodriguez was aware that two White House counsels, the counsel to the vice president, the DNI and the DCIA and the HIPC ranking member had all expressed opposition or reservations about destruction of the tapes. So were you aware of those facts that Mr. Rodriguez was at least aware of and were you aware of the actions of Senator Levin when you drafted your memo and then had the tapes subsequently destroyed?
HASPEL: Senator Warner, what I recall were the security issues surrounding the tapes. I don't recall pending legislation. I just don't recall that.