Saturday, August 18, 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: Did Rick Scottís wallet affect his epiphany on rail line?

Editorial: Did Rick Scottís wallet affect his epiphany on rail line?

Within weeks of taking office in 2011, Gov. Rick Scott made one of the worst decisions of his administration and refused $2.4 billion in federal money for a high-speed rail line between Tampa and Orlando. Within months of leaving office, the governor...
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Editorial: Hillsborough has a place among growing number of governments suing opioid makers

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Editorial: Hereís what needs to be done to stop algae blooms

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Updated: 8 hours ago
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Updated: 08/16/18

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Updated: 9 hours ago
Editorial: Vaccinations are safe way to prevent measles

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Updated: 9 hours ago
Editorial: Habitat for Humanity still has questions to answer about selling mortgages

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A good reputation can vanish overnight, which is why Habitat for Humanity of Hills-borough County made a smart decision by announcing it would seek to buy back 12 mortgages it sold to a Tampa company with a history of flipping properties. The arrange...
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Editorial: Vote ó or a minority of the electorate will decide your future without you

Editorial: Vote ó or a minority of the electorate will decide your future without you

40%of Americans who were eligible to vote for president in 2016 just didnít bother. That number dwarfs the portion of all eligible voters who cast a ballot for President Donald Trump ó 27.6 percent ó or, for that matter, Hillary Clinton, 28.8 percent...
Published: 08/13/18
Updated: 08/17/18
Editorial: Why stand your ground has to go

Editorial: Why stand your ground has to go

Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe made a reasonable decision to charge Michael Drejka with manslaughter in last monthís deadly Clearwater convenience store parking lot confrontation. The shooting, which erupted over use of a handicap parkin...
Published: 08/13/18
Editorial: Politics aside, arguments are clear for moving appellate court to Tampa

Editorial: Politics aside, arguments are clear for moving appellate court to Tampa

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Published: 08/09/18
Updated: 08/10/18