Fmr. Obama NSC Spokesperson Defends Trump CIA Director Nominee Gina Haspel

March 13, 2018

Ned Price, former spokesperson for the Central Intelligence Agency and National Security Council under President Barack Obama, on Tuesday defended President Donald Trump's nominee to lead the CIA.

President Donald Trump announced on Twitter Tuesday that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson would be replaced by CIA Director Mike Pompeo, and Pompeo in turn would be replaced by CIA Deputy Director Gina Haspel.

Haspel is expected to face questions about her time in the CIA's former covert program under which suspected terrorists were interrogated. The methods of interrogation included waterboarding.

MSNBC anchor Ali Velshi asked Malcom Nance, former intelligence officer and MSNBC analyst, about Haspel and Trump both supporting enhance interrogation.

"Haspel along with President Trump have supported enhanced interrogation or torture. What does that mean?" Velshi asked.

"Well, it's irrelevant now because there are congressional laws, which completely prohibit torture and most of those enhanced interrogation techniques from being used the way they were used during the Bush administration's years," Nance responded. "You have to understand her position. She's a career intelligence officer, but she was also a deputy throughout most of the time. When she was given orders, she had to carry them out. Some other people might have quit ... She's a career professional. I think she'll have to answer for some of the things she did during her time, but for the most part, I think the agency is out of that business."

Price agreed with Nance's comments and added that the policy of enhanced interrogations wasn't something that Haspel herself "cooked up."

"I completely agree with Malcom on this. I think we have to remember that covert action programs–and the CIA's detention and interrogation program was indeed a covert action program–they are designed, conceived, and authorized by policy makers, by the White House in particular and by the President of the United States himself. We can't look at this as something that Gina Haspel herself cooked up," Price said.

"I think these brave men and women were answering the call that the White House gave them. Now we can disagree with that call and I certainly do, but I don't think this should be disqualified for Gina Haspel herself," Price added.

Velshi then asked Price how Haspel will respond to questions from senators about whether she thinks enhanced interrogations were the right course of action.

"Mike Pompeo handled this in an interesting way during his confirmation hearings when asked by Senator Diane Feinstein if he were instructed by President Trump to engage in enhanced interrogation techniques or torture," Velshi said. "And he said what Malcom said: 'No. The law says you can't do that. The CIA can't operate outside of the law.'  But that is still going to be a question she will get from senators. And I guess the question is, does she believe it is the right thing to do or not?"

"It will absolutely be a question she has to answer," Price said.

"I think you will find very few champions within the intelligence community of restarting any program even resembling this," Price added. "Director Pompeo, during his confirmation hearing, certainly did not speak for his future work force, and I suspect you will hear a very similar answer from Gina Haspel. The difference here of course is that she lived through this period and she knows the horror that inflicted not only upon the agency but also upon our moral standing."

Back in February 2017, Price wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post that explained he left the CIA because of Trump.