Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Editorials

Washington Post: Haspel fails the test

Gina Haspel, President Donald Trump’s 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 — now banned by law — 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 — 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 Haspel’s nomination.

Haspel’s very commitment to the CIA and its people seems to inform her resistance to a clear condemnation of the torture record. "I’m 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 wasn’t attacked again, and we had been informed that the techniques in CIA’s 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. Haspel’s 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 don’t have interrogators and we don’t have interrogation expertise." That’s 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: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

Editorial: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

A Tallahassee judge has affirmed the overwhelming intent of Florida voters by ruling that state lawmakers have failed to comply with a constitutional amendment that is supposed to provide a specific pot of money to buy and preserve endangered lands. ...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/19/18
Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Innocent children should not be used as political pawns. That is exactly what the Trump administration is doing by cruelly prying young children away from their parents as these desperate families cross the Mexican border in search of a safer, better...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/19/18

Editorial: ATF should get tougher on gun dealers who violate the law

Gun dealers who break the law by turning a blind eye to federal licensing rules are as dangerous to society as people who have no right to a possess a firearm in the first place. Yet a recent report shows that the federal agency responsible for polic...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/18/18
Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the lates...
Published: 06/15/18
Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Forty years ago today, Nelson Poynter died. He was the last individual to own this newspaper, and to keep the Times connected to this community, he did something remarkable. He gave it away.In his last years, Mr. Poynter recognized that sooner or lat...
Published: 06/15/18

There was no FBI anti-Trump conspiracy

The Justice Department released Thursday the highly anticipated report on the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe and other sensitive issues in the 2016 election. It is not the report President Donald Trump wanted. But there is enough i...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Voter purge may be legal, but it’s also suppression

The Supreme Court’s ruling last Monday to allow Ohio’s purging of its voter rolls is difficult to dispute legally. While federal law prohibits removing citizens from voter rolls simply because they haven’t voted, Ohio’s purge is slightly different. T...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Editorial: Free rides will serve as a test of whether the streetcar is serious transportation

Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to ride for free?This fall, the TECO Streetcar Line eliminates its $2.50-a-ride-fare, providing the best opportunity yet to see whether the system’s vintage streetcar replicas can serve as a legitimate transportation a...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

AT&T and the case for digital innovation

A good way to guarantee you’ll be wrong about something is to predict the future of technology. As in, "One day, we’ll all …" Experts can hazard guesses about artificial intelligence, driverless cars or the death of cable television, but technologica...
Published: 06/14/18
Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

The Florida Department of Children and Families has correctly set a quick deadline for Hillsborough County’s main child welfare provider to correct its foster care program. For too long the same story has played out, where troubled teens who need fos...
Published: 06/14/18