City Bar Urges “Searching Inquiry” of Nomination of Gina Haspel for Director of the Central Intelligence Agency

In a letter to Majority Leader McConnell, Minority Leader Schumer, Chairman Burr, and Vice Chairman Warner, the New York City Bar Association is urging members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to ask certain questions of Gina Haspel when she appears before them as the nominee for Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

The letter, which states that while the Senate should afford the President substantial deference in the selection of high-ranking appointees when exercising its Constitutional function of advice and consent, “it is appropriate, without taking a formal position on Ms. Haspel’s candidacy, to identify questions we submit members of the Select Committee should pose to Ms. Haspel in evaluating her candidacy and consider in their deliberations over her confirmation.” 

These questions should be directed to the important purpose of testing and confirming Ms. Haspel’s commitment to adhering to and rigorously enforcing U.S. laws and treaties prohibiting and criminalizing torture, and to permitting appropriate oversight of the CIA by Congress and United States courts.

Further, the letter notes that “though many details about Ms. Haspel’s professional record remain classified, what is known raises sufficiently important questions to warrant the Select Committee’s acquisition of the most comprehensive record possible and searching evaluation of her past actions. In particular, it seems essential for the Select Committee, in evaluating her fitness to serve as Director, develop the fullest possible understanding regarding her involvement in running a CIA black site in Thailand where two detainees were reportedly tortured,  and regarding her advocacy for and assistance in facilitating the destruction of videotaped recordings of those interrogation sessions.”

Additionally, the record appears clear that in 2005, Ms. Haspel played a role in the destruction of 96 videotapes of CIA interrogations, including a small number of tapes of the detainee interrogations.

While the conduct at issue is more than a decade in the past and implicates issues that appropriate authorities at least partly elected to leave unresolved in favor of forward-looking rules and sensibilities regarding future conduct, the letter notes that “Ms. Haspel’s nomination for a position involving hugely sensitive and important judgments outside the public view appears to warrant the Select Committee’s satisfying itself on multiple points presented by the incomplete public record that potentially bear on her suitability for this important position.”

The letter concludes, stating that “[o]btaining full answers to these questions seems essential to the Select Committee’s determination whether Ms. Haspel’s record and answers inspire the confidence the Committee should require to consent to her appointment. An absence of searching inquiry on these subjects would itself convey a significant negative message about the degree of primacy the Select Committee attaches to the rule of law.”

The report can be read here:

About the Association
The New York City Bar Association, since its founding in 1870, has been dedicated to maintaining the high ethical standards of the legal profession, promoting reform of the law and access to justice, and providing service to the profession and the public. The Association, through its 24,000 members, continues to work for political, legal and social reform, while implementing innovative means to help the disadvantaged. Protecting the public’s welfare remains one of the Association’s highest priorities.