EDITORIAL: Torture is immoral, and Haspel’s refusing to say that disqualifies her from leading the CIA

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CIA director nominee Gina Haspel needed to say just one critical thing to virtually cinch her confirmation as the next chief of the country’s spy agency.

She didn’t.

Under fire for her part in the country’s notorious torture of potential terrorists after the Sept. 11 attacks, Haspel was given an opportunity during Senate confirmation hearings this week to own up to the heinous mistakes she and the nation made, and ensure Congress she would never allow the CIA to go there again.

Instead, Haspel dodged the important questions with non-answers, and she refused the most important query, which could have made her confirmation palatable.

When Haspel was asked point blank, repeatedly, if she thought torture was immoral, she refused to answer.

The moment wasn’t lost on the millions of Americans and U.S. veterans who are unambiguous in their certainty that torture is an abomination, and without question, an immoral, ineffective and intolerable practice.

Anyone in a position of power to determine what torture is and isn’t, and who could decide whether to permit it, and to decide whether to disclose it, and who cannot say forthright and publicly that torture is immoral, has no business being director of the CIA.

Arizona Sen. John McCain immediately seized on the defining moment.

“I believe Gina Haspel is a patriot who loves our country and has devoted her professional life to its service and defense,” McCain said from his home, where he is undergoing treatment for brain cancer. “However, Ms. Haspel’s role in overseeing the use of torture by Americans is disturbing. Her refusal to acknowledge torture’s immorality is disqualifying.”

McCain was infamously tortured by enemies in prison during the Vietnam War as a soldier.

President Donald Trump as a candidate ridiculed McCain’s past, and while running for office made clear he not only approves of torture, but would encourage waterboarding and other forms of torture that are “a hell of a lot worse.”

It’s difficult to imagine a more dangerous combination of Trump’s corrupt morality and Haspel’s dubious integrity on an issue that defines the job.

Had she simply been able to honestly, directly and correctly answer this one vital question, she would have been a perfectly acceptable candidate for CIA director.

But with her history of having participated in managing the torture our enemies, and then her role in trying to cover up the evidence under the ruse of protecting those who actually conducted the torture, Haspel cannot be allowed to assume the post.

Torture is not a tolerable policy for the United States, and anyone unable to make that unequivocal is unqualified to hold power over anyone or any part of the government where decisions about torture are possible.

We join McCain and others in insisting that Colorado Sens. Cory Gardner and Michael Bennet, and all senators, vote against Haspel’s nomination.