The New York Times coverage omitted key details leading up to today’s the Senate Intelligence Committee confirmation hearing for Gina Haspel, President Trump’s nominee to lead the Central Intelligence Agency. In its article “Gina Haspel Has the Experience to Run the C.I.A., and That May Be Her Biggest Problem,” reporters Peter Baker and Matthew Rosenberg relied on unnamed sources cited in passing, rather than offering proper legal context, to mention that Haspel’s involvement in interrogation techniques was signed off by her superiors.
The Times reported:
“Among the materials handed over to the Senate are logs of internal chats from a C.I.A. instant messaging system in which Ms. Haspel appeared to raise no objections to the interrogation program or the methods employed against Qaeda suspects, according to an American official, who like others declined to be identified discussing confidential matters.
“The official said Ms. Haspel seemed completely comfortable with what was being done to the prisoners. Her allies said she hardly relished the task but was carrying out a program approved by policymakers and lawyers.”
The Times did not specifically mention that the interrogation techniques in question had been approved by the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) advising the Executive Branch, which meant that Haspel herself had no control over whether the techniques were approved.
As Robert Turner, former counsel to President Reagan’s Intelligence Oversight Board and co-founder of the Center for National Security Law at the University of Virginia, writes in The Wall Street Journal:
“Ms. Haspel is not an attorney, and she had every reason to rely in good faith on the legal memoranda produced by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel upholding the controversial techniques. As former ACLU Deputy Legal Adviser Jameel Jaffer recently noted, OLC opinions ‘have the force of law within the executive branch.’”