Sen. John Thune said Thursday that he’s “uncomfortable” with the idea of torture but added that CIA director-nominee Gina Haspel’s past record need to be understood in the context of the time involved.
“I’m uncomfortable with torture in any form,” the South Dakota Republican told CNN, “and I think the discussion that was occurring at the time, there was a fairly spirited discussion about that.”
However, Haspel, who has come under fire for her involvement with a camp where the controversial technique had been used, was working in the “wake of 9/11,” said Thune. “That being said, I don’t think there’s any circumstances for torture being used.”
Haspel told the Senate Intelligence Committee Wednesday that she would not bring back extreme interrogation practices, if she is confirmed as director, and added that the agency would not return to such practices if she is confirmed.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has urged colleagues to reject Haspel because of her record, even though she believes she is a patriot who loves her country.
“Everybody’s raising this issue of what she knew, when she knew it and how involved she was in destruction of these tapes, but that’s all been investigated,” said Thune.
“There was a special counsel that looked into that, there was an internal investigation that looked into that and I think right now the focus ought to be on her qualifications for this job. There isn’t anybody who questions her capabilities including many past CIA directors from both Republican and Democrat administrations.
Thune also discussed President Donald Trump’s reaction to three prisoners being returned to the United States, when the president thanked North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for releasing the detainees and calling his action “excellent.”
“I probably say a lot of things differently than the president does,” said Thune. “The issue here is that these detainees are home. You have to give credit to the president and to [Secretary of State] Mike Pompeo for negotiating that and on whether you like his tactics or not, you have to agree that they are on this level working.”
He also does not think Trump’s words of thanks are the right approach heading into his summit in June with Kim.
“You want to head into the meeting with clear eyes about who you’re dealing with,” said Thune. “This is a dictatorial regime and my view is it’s always trust but verify.
“I think they have to show hard evidence and we have to have disclosure and verification mechanisms in place to ensure that whatever might be agreed upon actually is something that they’ll follow through on.”
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