Rand Paul still says he will vote against the confirmation of Gina Haspel to be the next director of the CIA, citing her role in the intelligence agency’s brutal interrogation program more than a decade ago.
During confirmation hearings this week, Haspel said she would “never, ever” restart the interrogation program, which subjected prisoners to waterboarding, sleep deprivation and other interrogation methods.
After an event in Louisville, Paul said he wasn’t convinced by Haspel’s testimony and that she shouldn’t be “rewarded” for her involvement in the program.
“I think that people, after the fact when they’re struggling to get a nomination, will say a lot of things. She struggled to say though whether it was immoral even today,” Paul said.
“To my mind, torturing people is immoral and something we shouldn’t do. It’s against the Geneva Convention, it’s against American principles.”
Haspel ran a secret CIA prison in Thailand during the administration of President George W. Bush.
Paul is one of two Senate Republicans so far who openly oppose Haspel’s confirmation. Arizona Sen. John McCain released a statement earlier this week calling Haspel’s role in the interrogation program “disturbing” and urging the Senate to reject her nomination.
One Democrat, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin said he would support her.
Haspel’s nomination is the latest time Paul finds himself at odds with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky’s senior senator.
McConnell has thrown his support behind Haspel, calling her “uniquely ready” to head the CIA in a speech on the Senate Floor earlier this week.
“Her career has encompassed both the Cold War and the ongoing Global War on Terror. So in a moment when our national security demands excellence in each of these areas — great-power competition and counterterrorism alike — Ms. Haspel stands uniquely ready to assume the responsibilities of CIA director as perhaps its most qualified candidate in the agency’s history,” McConnell said.
Starting last month, a group called the American Exceptionalism Institute began airing an ad in Kentucky chastising Paul for opposing Haspel’s nomination.
Haspel has several ties to Kentucky — she was born in Ashland, attended both the University of Kentucky and University of Louisville, and is an “avid fan” of UK basketball, according to her CIA bio.