RI Senators Have Reservations On Proposed CIA Head

Mar 15, 2018

Rhode Island's two U.S. senators have expressed reservations about President Trump’s choice to lead the CIA, Gina Haspel, who faces scrutiny for her role in running a black site in Thailand after 9/11.

President Trump used a tweet over the weekend to fire Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

The top job at the CIA is opening since Trump has picked the agency’s director, Mike Pompeo, to replace Tillerson.

U.S. Senator Jack Reed said he has serious concerns about Trump’s selection of CIA head Mike Pompeo to take Tillerson’s place, and of Haspel to fill Pompeo’s job at the CIA.

Haspel ran a secret prison in Thailand after 9/11. Detainees there were subjected to waterboarding and practices condemned by critics as torture.

Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse said Haspel needs to be more upfront about her involvement in activities at the CIA black site in Thailand.

Whitehouse and Reed both voted in favor of Pompeo’s confirmation as CIA director in early 2017. But the senators criticize Trump’s dismissal of Tillerson as secretary of state. Reed said Trump is attempting to run national security like a reality TV show. Whitehouse said Tillerson’s abrupt termination sends a poor message to people who might consider serving in the administration.

Two Republicans are running for the chance to take on Whitehouse, who is serving in his second term.

One Republican, Robert Flanders, said, "The secretary of state, like other cabinet officials, serves at the pleasure of the President. Mike Pompeo comes highly regarded by many in Washington and I look forward to what he will bring to this important position. Whether addressing the North Korean threat, fixing or nixing the broken Iran Nuclear pact, or dealing with Russia and China, any president deserves the right to have not only the strongest team available working on behalf of the American people, but also the individuals that he believes are best able to collaborate with him to achieve his policy objectives."

The other Republican, state Rep. Robert Nardolillo (R-Coventry), said, "I begin with a bias towards accepting the president’s nomination for any post where the Senate has advise & consent powers. I’d also say that in general I like the idea of a career technician taking over the reins of a technical organization.  I’m aware, of course, that the CIA manages a number of Black Ops. So Ms. Haspel has undoubtedly participated in some of her agency’s more unsavory activities over the years. But that’s the work of Central Intelligence. You would expect a career IRS agent to have dealt with tax filings. As a government we accept and ignore some of the extra-legal parameters of espionage. Haspel’s involvement in such operations in the past in no way disqualifies her to head the agency now, any more than Allen Dulles’ WWII cloak & dagger exploits disqualified him."

This post has been updated.