15:17, May 06 244 0 theguardian.com

2018-05-06 15:17:04
Trump CIA pick sought to withdraw over 'torture' concerns – report

Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the CIA, Gina Haspel, sought to withdraw over concerns about her role in the agency’s interrogation program, the Washington Post reported on Sunday, citing four unidentified senior US officials.

Haspel was summoned to the White House on Friday, the paper said, for a meeting to discuss her history in the interrogation program that employed techniques including waterboarding that have been widely condemned as torture.

Haspel told the White House she would step aside to avoid a brutal Senate intelligence committee confirmation hearing on Wednesday that might damage the CIA, the officials told the Post. She then returned to agency headquarters in Langley, Virginia.

White House aides, including the legislative affairs liaison, Marc Short, and the press secretary, Sarah Sanders, rushed to Langley for discussions that lasted several hours but did not secure a commitment from Haspel to stick with the nomination, the paper said.

Only on Saturday afternoon was the White House assured she would not withdraw, the Post quoted the officials as saying.

Trump named Haspel, the first woman tapped to head the agency, to succeed Mike Pompeo, who became secretary of state last month.

Haspel’s nomination has encountered opposition over her role in a now defunct program in which the agency detained and interrogated al-Qaida suspects in secret prisons overseas using techniques widely condemned as torture.

George W Bush authorized the rendition, detention and interrogation program after the attacks of 11 September 2001.

Last month, Trump’s pick for secretary of veterans affairs, the White House doctor Ronny Jackson, withdrew from consideration after a number of allegations arose concerning his conduct.