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Gina Haspel told senators CIA would "never restart" interrogation program

In forthcoming CBS News relaunch of former CIA Acting Director Michael Morell's podcast, "Intelligence Matters," former CIA Director Michael Hayden tells Morell, "There is no way that an agency officer of Gina's character and experience will send CIA officers out there to do this again"

CIA Director nominee Gina Haspel is telling senators in private meetings that she would "never let the CIA restart an interrogation and detention program." She says that she will abide by the legal framework governing interrogations detailed in the Army Field Manual. 

In the lead-up to her May 9 confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Haspel is also promising to ensure that the CIA remains focused on its core mission of collection and analysis and that the agency abides by its values of "service, integrity and courage."

The content of Haspel's conversations was revealed by former CIA deputy director and CBS News contributor Michael Morell, who on Friday spoke with former CIA director General Michael Hayden for his podcast, "Intelligence Matters."  The podcast was previously produced by national security website The Cipher Brief and will be officially relaunched next week by CBS News.

Both Morell and Hayden have previously expressed their support for Haspel's nomination.

"We know some mistakes were made," General Hayden said of the enhanced interrogation program, "but at its core, we thought the program met all the requirements the agency had to have to do those kinds of things."

Defenders of the agency and of Haspel's alleged involvement with the program have argued that it adhered to an established legal framework that was sanctioned at the time by the president and attorney general, and that relevant members of Congress had been duly informed. Critics of Haspel have argued that she, like others at the agency at the time, should have resigned, pushed back, or spoken out rather than abiding the program's implementation. 

Hayden argued that Haspel was a "brilliant" choice to lead the agency because, he said, "there is no way that an agency officer of Gina's character and experience will send CIA officers out there to do this again."

"She won't do it because she won't put her officers at risk the way they were put at risk when the nation was made to feel a bit more safe after 9/11," Hayden told Morell. "If you're worried about the future on this particular question, Gina Haspel," Hayden said, "you can't pick a better person."

The news of Haspel's private comments comes as a number of senators have expressed concerns about – and pushed for more extensive declassification of – her reported involvement in the interrogation program, including her oversight, in 2002, of a "black site" in Thailand where detainees were subjected to waterboarding. Much of Haspel's thirty-year career at CIA was spent in the clandestine service, and remains classified.

Earlier this week, the CIA sent a letter to a trio of Democratic senators – Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon; Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California; and Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-New Mexico – informing them that it would allow senators weighing Haspel's nomination to review additional classified information about her career at a secure site at the Capitol. 

In response, the senators called the agency's move "wholly inadequate" and renewed their requests that more of Haspel's background be declassified.

"We believe senators and the American public have the need to know whether or not the nominee before us was a senior manager for a program that has been shown to be deeply flawed, as well as a number of other disturbing facts about her record," the senators said.