Scores of former military officials signed on to an open letter published by an activist group Monday challenging President Donald Trump’s nomination of Gina Haspel to lead the CIA – and called for the declassification of her agency records.
“Given the serious allegations made against Ms. Haspel, we urge you to insist on full declassification, with appropriate redactions to protect sensitive national security information, of all information regarding her role in the rendition, detention, and interrogation program,” the letter reads.
The letter was published by Human Rights First, an advocacy group focused on human rights that said it is taking meetings on Capitol Hill to raise concerns about the Haspel nomination. The letter outlines major concerns with Haspel’s history in the CIA regarding its use of “black sites” and interrogation measures widely regarded as torture as well as the destruction of interrogation tapes, and says it would be a “terrible signal” to confirm someone involved in the post-9/11 program to be CIA director.
Signatories to the letter include former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Hugh H. Shelton, retired Marine Corps Gen. John R. “Jack” Dailey and retired Air Force Gen. Walter Kross.
The letter from 109 former military officials pushes back on praise Haspel received from former intelligence leaders, and disputes the notion that she was “just following orders.”
“We did not accept the ‘just following orders’ justification after World War II, and we should not accept it now,” the letter reads. “Waterboarding and other forms of torture or cruel and inhuman treatment are – and always have been – clearly unlawful.”
Trump’s decision to nominate Haspel to succeed CIA Director Mike Pompeo prompted outrage from human rights and civil liberties groups, and members of the Senate tasked with approving her nomination have called on the CIA to make available much more information about her career in the agency.
The CIA declassified a memo last week absolving Haspel of responsibility for destroying tapes showing torture, but key Democrats said the agency should go much further to square their concerns.
Raha Wala, national security advocacy director at Human Rights First, told CNN on Monday that retired Gen. Charles Krulak, former commandant of the Marine Corps, led the effort around the letter.
“We’re deeply troubled by the prospect of someone who appears to have been intimately involved in torture being elevated to one of the most important positions in the intelligence community,” Krulak said in a conference call on the letter.