The president wants acting CIA director Gina Haspel to take leadership of America’s preeminent intelligence agency from Mike Pompeo, who was recently confirmed as his new secretary of state. There is considerable opposition to Ms Haspel’s confirmation by the senate because of her previous role overseeing “black sites” during George W Bush’s so-called war on terror, in which water-boarding and other methods many consider to be torture, were used to interrogate prisoners.
Over the weekend, Green Beret Tim Kennedy, a former mixed martial arts fighter, livestreamed the 41-minute footage, which shows him being voluntarily waterboarded and answering questions between sessions. He claimed it proved waterboarding was not torture.
“The reason we are doing this ... is for us to have a conversation. Right now, an amazing hero has been appointed to be director of the CIA and because of that, some of the things she has done are being attacked,” Mr Kennedy said about Ms Haspel.
“If I can change one person’s mind about what torture is and what I would do to protect American freedom, I will do this for years.”
Between sessions, Mr Kennedy claimed being waterboarded was not torture and was simply uncomfortable.
The Hill said Mr Kennedy criticised recent reports that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the man who has been charged with organising the 9/11 attacks, recently requested permission to share information pertaining to Ms Haspel’s nomination. He was reportedly waterboarded 183 times over 15 sessions while in US custody.
During his 2016 election campaign, Mr Trump repeatedly defended waterboarding and other measures for dealing with terror suspects and said he would like to see them used again.
Barack Obama ordered the US stop using such methods, amid questions about them being a form of torture and doubts as to their effectiveness.
Ms Haspel, 61, whom Trump nominated to head the agency in March, has come under fire for overseeing a CIA black site in Thailand in 2002 where terror suspects were tortured. During testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee last week, Ms Haspel said she would not allow the agency to return to the use of such methods.
“I would not allow CIA to undertake activity that I thought was immoral – even if it was technically legal,” she said.
Ms Haspel’s nomination has been condemned by several high profile politicians, among them Republican senator John McCain, a former prisoner of war who has long been a critic of torture. Mr McCain is currently receiving treatment for an aggressive form of brain cancer.
Mr McCain’s statement urging senators not to confirm her, led to more controversy when it emerged a While House aide had dismissed his views but saying: “It doesn’t matter, he’s dying anyway.”
Over the weekend, it was reported that a second Democrat in the senate, Joe Donnelly had become the second member of that party to support Ms Haspel, making it more likely she will obtain the 50-vote minimum she needs for confirmation. Mr Donnelly, of Indiana, joins Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia, in supporting her.
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