Liz Cheney: Rand Paul Is ‘Sympathizing With Terrorists’ By Opposing Haspel

Republican U.S. House candidate Liz Cheney looks out into the audience during a U.S. House debate on Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016 at Casper College in Casper, Wyo. (Jenna VonHofe, Casper Star-Tribune via AP)
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Editor’s Note: The ProPublica report on Haspel’s role in the torture program, cited in the TPM story below, has been corrected. ProPublica now reports that Haspel didn’t begin supervising the Thailand facility until after the water-boarding of Abu Zubaydah had ended.

The correction does not affect reporting on Haspel’s role in overseeing the torture of other detainees, or in the later destruction of tapes showing the torture.

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) on Wednesday said Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) was “defending and sympathizing with terrorists” for opposing current CIA Deputy Director Gina Haspel to lead the agency.

Haspel will face a bumpy confirmation process: She ran a CIA black site in Thailand and oversaw the torture of detainees during former President George W. Bush’s tenure. When the Bush administration faced scrutiny for what it called “enhanced interrogation” years later, according to ProPublica, Haspel “drafted an order to destroy the evidence.” Video tapes of the interrogations were then ordered destroyed by her boss, Jose Rodriguez, director of operations for counterterrorism at the CIA. 

“Gina Haspel has spent her career defending the American people and homeland,” Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, said in a tweet. She linked to a video of Rand Paul explaining that his opposition to Haspel came in response to what he called her “gleeful” response to torture.

“@RandPaul is defending and sympathizing with terrorists,” Cheney wrote.

Cheney is a fierce defender of the Bush administration’s use of torture (though she calls waterboarding, a process that simulates forced drowning, “enhanced interrogation”), and of President Donald Trump’s suggestion that America bring it back into regular use.

“The President’s executive order was very clear we don’t torture, we haven’t tortured but what we’re talking about is the ability to get information from people who don’t want to provide information and have information that may well save American lives and prevent attacks,” she said shortly after Trump’s inauguration.

Cheney commented Wednesday on footage of Fox News’ Harris Faulkner interviewing Paul about his opposition to both Haspel’s confirmation, and the confirmation of current CIA Director Mike Pompeo to be secretary of state.

“I oppose her because she believes that waterboarding should be something that we use, and I think America shouldn’t be known for torture,” Paul said. “And I have members of my family in the military. I don’t want, if they’re ever captured, for foreign countries to think torture is okay.”

Faulkner objected: “You say she believes, Gina Haspel believes in this. She was working in a capacity at the CIA where everybody was taking orders. So Gina Haspel, how do you know what she believes?”

Paul pointed to a book by a former interrogator at the Thai black site and said “several” of Haspel’s comments about torture “were basically gleeful.”

He appeared to be referencing a work quoted in the same ProPublica report that identified Haspel by her title. The book quoted the person with Haspel’s position speaking to a prisoner, Abu Zubaydah, about his signs of physical and emotional distress. 

However, on March 15, ProPublica issued a correction for the article in which it said Haspel was not the person identified in the following paragraph, which Paul was likely referencing:

In a scene described in a book written by one of the interrogators, the chief of base came to his cell and “congratulated him on the fine quality of his acting.” According to the book, the chief of base, who was identified only by title, said: “Good job! I like the way you’re drooling; it adds realism. I’m almost buying it. You wouldn’t think a grown man would do that.”

“The man can’t breathe and he’s choking on saliva and water and she’s saying ‘Oh, you’re a good actor,’ and ‘Can’t believe a grown man’s crying because of this treatment,’” Paul said, characterizing the book. “And it almost seemed to be a bit of glee in her voice, that she enjoyed the torture.”

“We should not reward somebody who actually participated in torture treatment,” he added. “Remember, they went to Thailand to do this because it’s illegal in the United States.”

This post has been updated. 

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