Monday, October 15, 2018
Editorials

Washington Post: Haspel fails the test

Gina Haspel, President Donald Trumpís nominee to head the Central Intelligence Agency, faced a clear test when she appeared before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday. After a 33-year career at the agency, she may be, in many respects, the most qualified person ever nominated to the post, as one Republican senator contended. But she has a dark chapter in her past: her supervision of a secret prison in Thailand where al-Qaeda suspects were tortured, and her subsequent involvement in the destruction of videotapes of that shameful episode.

As Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the ranking Democrat on the committee, made clear from the outset, Haspel needs to clearly repudiate that record. She must confirm that techniques such as waterboarding ó now banned by law ó were and are unacceptable, and she must make clear that she herself will never again accept orders to carry out acts that so clearly violate American moral standards, even if they are ordered by the president and certified by administration lawyers as legal.

Haspel did not meet that test. She volunteered that the CIA would not on her watch engage in interrogations; she said she supported the "stricter moral standard" the country had adopted after debating the interrogation program. Pressed by Warner and several other senators, she eventually said she "would not allow CIA to undertake activity that I thought was immoral, even if it was technically legal." What she would not say is that the torture she oversaw was immoral, or that it should not have been done, or that she regretted her own role in it ó which, according to senators, included advocating for the program internally.

That ambiguity matters at a time when the United States is led by a president who has cheered for torture, who lacks respect for the rule of law and who demands absolute loyalty from his aides. Unfortunately, it makes it impossible for us, and others for whom the repudiation of torture is a priority, to support Haspelís nomination.

Haspelís very commitment to the CIA and its people seems to inform her resistance to a clear condemnation of the torture record. "Iím not going to sit here with the benefit of hindsight and judge the very good people who made hard decisions who were running the agency in very extraordinary circumstances," she said. She said that those working in the counterterrorism center "had been charged with making sure the country wasnít attacked again, and we had been informed that the techniques in CIAís program were legal and authorized by the highest legal authority in the country and also the president."

Those are honorable sentiments, and it is not our view that all in the CIA who were involved in excesses after 9/11 should be barred from senior positions in perpetuity. Haspelís principal justification for saying that she would not allow the CIA to return to interrogations is that the agency is "not the right place to conduct interrogations. We donít have interrogators and we donít have interrogation expertise." Thatís true enough, but Haspel would have served herself better had she offered a principled argument, rather than a pragmatic excuse.

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Editorial: Tampa water project benefits entire region

Editorial: Tampa water project benefits entire region

A proposal that goes to the three-county utility Tampa Bay Water on Monday could benefit residents, the economy and the environment across the region. The utility's governing board will consider a proposal by the city of Tampa to redirect highly trea...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Editorial: Rays’ purchase of Rowdies good for St. Petersburg

Editorial: Rays’ purchase of Rowdies good for St. Petersburg

The Tampa Bay Rays’ purchase of the Rowdies soccer team adds some stability to the region’s roster of professional sports franchises. It also guarantees that the Rowdies, who have amassed an enthusiastic fan base in a short time, will k...
Published: 10/12/18
Editorial: Remember Mexico Beach when next evacuation order comes

Editorial: Remember Mexico Beach when next evacuation order comes

When the sun rose Wednesday, Mexico Beach was a sleepy town of 1,200 people on Florida's northern Gulf coast. By sundown, it was gone. The pictures show the heartbreaking devastation left by Hurricane Michael in the Florida Panhandle. Entire neighbor...
Published: 10/12/18
Shortsighted opposition to TECO

Shortsighted opposition to TECO

The destruction from Hurricane Michael is only the latest reminder of Florida's growing vulnerability to extreme weather, rising sea levels and other impacts of a warming climate. But the Sierra Club's opposition to Tampa Electric Co.'s plans to retr...
Published: 10/12/18
Editorial: Answering questions about Hillsborough school tax

Editorial: Answering questions about Hillsborough school tax

The Hillsborough County school tax on the Nov. 6 ballot is a smart, necessary investment in the nation's eighth-largest school system. The 10-year, half-penny sales tax would create stronger, safer schools and a healthier learning environment for mor...
Published: 10/12/18
Times recommends: Chronister for Hillsborough sheriff

Times recommends: Chronister for Hillsborough sheriff

Florida sheriffs have long hand-plucked their successors from within the ranks. While he is a product of this tradition, Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister is uniquely qualified to be elected on his own merits.Then-Sheriff David Gee surprise...
Published: 10/11/18
Updated: 10/12/18
Times recommends: Yes on Florida Supreme Court retention

Times recommends: Yes on Florida Supreme Court retention

One justice on the Florida Supreme Court faces a merit retention vote in November, essentially an up-or-down vote of confidence allowing him to remain on the bench. Merit retention votes occur at least one year after the justice’s initial appo...
Published: 10/11/18
Times recommends: Yes on retaining 4 appeals judges

Times recommends: Yes on retaining 4 appeals judges

The 2nd District Court of Appeal judges are on the Nov. 6 ballot for merit retention. Voters are being asked whether the appellate judges should be retained for another six-year term.Two pieces of information are helpful in deciding. First, the Flori...
Published: 10/11/18
Times recommends: Vote no on Clearwater strong mayor

Times recommends: Vote no on Clearwater strong mayor

A handful of influential business leaders are understandably frustrated with Clearwater’s failure to rejuvenate its downtown and eager to duplicate the rebirth of downtowns in Tampa and St. Petersburg. But they have focused on the wrong soluti...
Published: 10/10/18
Updated: 10/11/18
Times recommends: Vote yes on St. Petersburg charter amendments

Times recommends: Vote yes on St. Petersburg charter amendments

St. Petersburg voters will see two city charter amendments on the November ballot related to leases at two city properties. Both amendments would allow for longer leases at sites where improvements are planned, and they deserve voters’ support...
Published: 10/10/18