Open The Government Questions for Gina Haspel Confirmation Hearing
On Wednesday, Gina Haspel will appear before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to answer questions about her career at the CIA. We’ve had serious concerns about Ms. Haspel’s nomination to be the Director of the CIA (See our coalition letter and one-pager), and we hope the Senators considering her nomination will thoroughly explore, in open session, the following aspects of her record:
Destruction of torture tapes
On April 20, the CIA publicly released a memo containing the findings of an internal CIA investigation into the destruction of 92 videotapes of CIA interrogations. This memo, however, failed to address several aspects of the tape destruction that require further clarification to assess Ms. Haspel’s commitment to transparency and the rule of law:
- Did you ever advocate for the destruction of the videotapes, as John Rizzo wrote in his book? If so, for what reason did you believe the videotapes should be destroyed? Why was secure preservation of the tapes not sufficient?
- Were you aware, at the time of the tapes’ destruction, that there was a court order for the CIA to identify or produce records related to the treatment of detainees in U.S. custody overseas?
- Do you believe that violating that court order was a violation of law?
The CIA has defended the destruction of the tapes by arguing that because they preserved transcriptions of the tapes, the videos were essentially redundant. In a February 2017 letter, however, NARA Chief Records Officer Laurence Brewer asserted that the videotapes should have been considered a government record regardless of whether the CIA also maintained transcriptions of the tapes or other documentation of the interrogations.
- Do you believe the destruction of the videotapes violated the Federal Records Act?
- [If Ms. Haspel previously answered she believed the tapes needed to be destroyed for national security purposes] The CIA has said that because there were transcripts of the tapes, the tapes themselves did not need to be preserved, but you said the tapes needed to be destroyed because they threatened national security. Can you say why the tapes were so dangerous but the transcripts were not?
Transparency and congressional oversight
The CIA has a long history of attempting to hide the torture program, both from the public and from Congress. The agency’s treatment of the Senate torture report, all of it while Ms. Haspel was in a leadership position, raises serious questions about accountability and oversight.
- Do you believe the destruction of the videotapes as well as the “accidental loss” of the agency’s copy of the torture report shows that the CIA lacks commitment to transparency and accountability regarding the torture program? As CIA Director, would you work toward improving transparency around the torture program?
- Were you involved in the decision to return the CIA’s copy of the Senate torture report to Congress, despite not having a legal obligation to do so?
- Do you believe the CIA has complied with Executive Order 13526, which forbids the classification of information to “conceal violations of law” or “prevent embarrassment,” in its handling of records related to the torture program?