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A day before acting CIA Director Gina Haspel’s confirmation hearing begins for her nomination to lead the agency, loud calls for the Senate to reject the nomination were compounded by demands from prominent progressives that any Democrats who vote to approve Haspel—who oversaw torture at the CIA—be voted out of office in primary elections.

Meanwhile, 50 progressive groups called on senators to block Haspel from ascending to the top role at the CIA, saying her history at the agency “should disqualify her to head the CIA or serve in any position of public trust.”

“Trump has stated he wants to ‘bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding,'” wrote the groups, including Indivisible, Our Revolution, and Public Citizen, in a letter that was originally sent ahead of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s confirmation last month. “Haspel is the kind of person who might unflinchingly help him do it…Her confirmation would also send a clear message to all members of the CIA, every intelligence agency, members of our military, and foreign states and their citizens around the world that we do not care about the rule of law or basic human rights.”

“The choice of Haspel to head the CIA is dead wrong. It says that even in the United States you can literally get away with torture.” —Jeremy Varon, Witness Against Torture

In 2002, Haspel oversaw a CIA black site in Thailand where detainees were subjected to waterboarding and other forms of torture. She also participated in destroying video evidence of the torture.

Haspel met with Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Dianne Feinstein of California, and Martin Heinrich of New Mexico on Monday amid speculation over which lawmakers will support her nomination. Her confirmation hearing comes weeks after six Democrats voted in favor of Pompeo leading the State Department, despite his support for torture and penchant for warmongering. Haspel’s successful takeover of the CIA would be even more disturbing, wrote Glenn Greenwald at The Intercept. 

“That Trump chose someone with one of the most gruesome torture histories to lead the CIA is certainly revealing about who he is,” he wrote. “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?”

The social change network CREDO Action urged progressives to call members of the Senate Intelligence Committee and demand that they vote against Haspel’s confirmation, while in Washington, D.C., human rights groups mobilized to rally outside the Hart Senate Office Building on Wednesday ahead of the hearing.

“The choice of Haspel to head the CIA is dead wrong,” said Jeremy Varon of Witness Against Torture in a statement. “It says that even in the United States you can literally get away with torture, which must warm the dark hearts of torturers everywhere in the world. Haspel must be stopped.”



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