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CIA nominee Gina Haspel faces uphill confirmation battle

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The Senate Intelligence Committee scheduled a hearing to consider her nomination for May 9, prompting protest from two members on the committee who have been requesting information pertaining to Haspel’s career be declassified.

“The American people expect and deserve to understand the backgrounds of their government’s leaders, and without further declassification, I don’t believe the Senate Intelligence Committee or the Senate as a whole can properly fulfill its constitutional obligation to ‘advise and consent’ on her nomination,” said Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., in a statement.

Haspel’s hearings will come in the wake of the rocky nomination of the current CIA director, Mike Pompeo, to become secretary of state. Pompeo’s confirmation votes are expected next week.

Some members of the Intelligence Committee are not satisfied with Haspel’s response to questions from Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the one-time prisoner of war who has opposed policies and nominees that supported harsh interrogations.

McCain has asked Haspel 13 questions to clarify her role in administering “enhanced interrogations” to detainees. Aides say there is a classified version of Haspel’s response and an unclassified version, neither of which have been released.

Haspel has begun meeting with senators individually ahead of her hearing, but Democrats say that the lack of transparency regarding her experience is problematic. While members of the Intelligence Committee have access to classified information, they are unable to talk about it and the public can’t see it.

“There have been too many problems too soon,” said a Democratic Senate aide who is not authorized to speak publicly.

Democrats have launched a campaign to try and persuade the CIA to declassify some of the information about her career. “She’s a career CIA officer, there is zero chance in hell you’re going to be able to declassify her entire work history. But the torture stuff shouldn’t be a heavy lift,” said another Democratic aide to a Senate Intelligence Committee who asked not to be named in order to speak frankly.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has already announced his opposition, and with the narrow Republican majority, 51-49, Haspel can’t afford to lose more Republicans — or she’ll have to gain the support of Democrats who are more opposed to Trump’s nominees as the administration ages and controversy continues with Trump’s cabinet picks and as special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation drags on.

While Paul and McCain are the only two GOP senators to make their concerns public, others have privately expressed reservations about her nominations.

One senior administration official acknowledged that there is concern about Haspel being able to pass through the Senate, but the official blamed Democrats, calling their concern based on “pure politics.”

 Gina Haspel speaks at the William J. Donovan Award Dinner, Oct. 2017. The OSS Society / via YouTube

Haspel’s nomination has revived a debate from the Bush administration era where anti-war groups multiplied and Democrats ran on anti-war and anti-torture platforms.

Now, a coalition of groups are pressuring senators to oppose her. A group of 50 elected officials and community leaders in Virginia wrote a letter urging their senators, Mark Warner, ranking member of the Intelligence Committee, and Tim Kaine, to oppose her nomination. And 40 progressive, faith and libertarian groups signed a letter to every senator expressing similar opposition to Haspel.

“No matter what Ms. Haspel says during a hearing, any vote related to her nomination (whether in committee or on the Senate floor) will be seen as a referendum on torture — by the public, by U.S. allies and enemies, and perhaps most alarmingly by the president, who has openly advocated for torture,” the letter states.

Marc Short, White House director of legislative affairs, says Haspel is prepared for a potentially contentious confirmation hearing. “I think she understands the political dynamics, but I think when you’ve been a station chief in places across the world, this isn’t what makes you nervous.”

Current and former CIA officials say Haspel arrived to take the helm at the prison after its most famous detainee, Abu Zubeydah, was waterboarded in a manner so horrific, according to a Senate report, that it reduced some CIA personnel to tears.

She was present for the interrogation of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who was suspected of involvement in the bombing of the USS Cole destroyer in 2000, which killed 17 sailors.

According to a 2014 Senate report, Nashiri was waterboarded, subjected to sleep deprivation and confined inside a coffin for days — three of the techniques approved by Justice Department lawyers.

He was also subjected to unapproved techniques, including a mock execution by an interrogator who racked the slide of a pistol as if preparing to fire and then revved a power drill next to his head, the report said.

There is much that has not been made public about Haspel’s exact role, and some senators are pushing to declassify documents that would shed light on it.

Another point of controversy is her role in the destruction of the videotapes of the Thailand interrogations. That came later, in 2005, when she was working at CIA headquarters as the chief of staff to the director of operations, Jose Rodriguez.

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Brexit deal on BRINK: EU fears UK will leave with no deal ahead of last-ditch crunch talks

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EUROCRATS are working on the assumption Britain will quit the European Union without a Brexit deal, it has emerged.

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Bumble Bee responds to Trump’s claim about protesters throwing cans of tuna

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Bumble Bee Seafoods on Tuesday responded to President Donald Trump’s fishy claim that protesters used cans of tuna to chuck at law enforcement amid civil unrest prompted by the deaths of Black Americans by police.

“They go out and buy tuna fish and soup. You know that right? … Because they throw it, they throw it, it’s the perfect weight — tuna fish,” Trump said at a rally in Pittsburgh on Tuesday. “They can really rip it, right? And that hits you. No, it’s true. Bumble Bee brand tuna.”

There have been no media reports of police being hit with cans of tuna. Bumble Bee Seafoods responded to the claim in a tweet on Tuesday.

“Eat em. Don’t throw em,” the company said on its official Twitter.

In 2018, The company said Trump’s tariffs on Chinese tuna would be “devastating” for the business.

There have been nationwide protests following the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor and the shooting of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Trump has used his re-election rallies to spread falsehoods about the protests and boast his law and order message and his pledge to quell the unrest in cities.

He claimed at Tuesday’s rally and others that mostly Democratic cities have been overrun by “anarchists.” Though police have violently clashed with demonstrators, many of the protests have remained largely peaceful.

On Monday, the Justice Department released a list of cities that it has deemed “anarchist jurisdictions” under Trump’s instructions this month to review federal funding for local governments in places where violence or vandalism has occurred during protests.

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EU crisis: Shock member state set to leave bloc after Brexit after issue ignored by bloc

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A BREXITEER has predicted one surprising nation will push to leave the EU after Brexit due to frustration with the bloc.

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