John McCain opposes CIA nominee Gina Haspel

Gina Haspel hearing

Sen. John McCain is urging the Senate to reject Gina Haspel, President Trump's pick to run the CIA, claiming Haspel's "refusal to acknowledge torture's immorality is disqualifying."

McCain, who is home at his ranch in Arizona as he battles brain cancer, made the statement after Haspel testified in her confirmation on Capitol Hill Wednesday morning. McCain said Haspel had a chance to "explain her involvement in the so-called enhanced interrogation program during the Bush administration, and account for the mistakes the country made in torturing detainees held" after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. 

Haspel has vowed not to restart any enhanced interrogation program, and said she would resist an order from the president to waterboard any detainees. Haspel repeatedly said she believes in a strict moral standard. 

"My parents gave me a moral compass, I would never ever take CIA back to an interrogation program," she told the Senate Intelligence Committee. "CIA follows the law, we followed the law then, we follow the law today. I support the law, I wouldn't support a change in the law. But I would not put CIA officers at risk to undertake risky controversial activity again."

McCain was a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War at the Hanoi Hilton, where he spent years in solitary confinement and was subject to torture and abuse. McCain returned after five-and-a-half years with white hair and the injuries he sustained would affect him for the rest of his life. During the Bush administration, McCain pushed for the White House to ban cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment for those in U.S. custody. 

McCain is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which heard Haspel's testimony Wednesday, but it is unclear if McCain would be able to return for the vote. 

"Unfortunately, the testimony the American people heard from Ms. Haspel today failed to address these concerns," McCain said in his statement. 

"Like many Americans, I understand the urgency that drove the decision to resort to so-called enhanced interrogation methods after our country was attacked," McCain continued. "I know that those who used enhanced interrogation methods and those who approved them wanted to protect Americans from harm. I appreciate their dilemma and the strain of their duty. But as I have argued many times, the methods we employ to keep our nation safe must be as right and just as the values we aspire to live up to and promote in the world."

"I believe Gina Haspel is a patriot who loves our country and has devoted her professional life to its service and defense," McCain noted. "However, Ms. Haspel's role in overseeing the use of torture by Americans is disturbing. Her refusal to acknowledge torture's immorality is disqualifying. I believe the Senate should exercise its duty of advice and consent and reject this nomination."