I dedicated my life to defending our nation. In a military career that spanned five decades, including command of the Army Intelligence and Security Command and director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, I learned firsthand that American ideals are the cornerstone of our security, and that we disregard them at our peril.

This is why I have joined more than 100 other retired military generals and admirals in urging senators to oppose the confirmation of Gina Haspel as CIA director. No votes will be more crucial than those of Maine Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King. As swing members of the Intelligence Committee, which will take up her nomination this week, they’re likely to cast the deciding votes.

This is a weighty responsibility, one that they will undoubtedly approach with seriousness. They will thoroughly consider the implications of nominating to this important, sensitive post a person who was intimately involved in torture.

Many of the details concerning Haspel’s precise role in the CIA’s torture program aren’t yet public. The CIA has launched a promotional campaign on her behalf while guarding information about her involvement in torture. Maine’s senators, along with their colleagues, should refuse to vote on her nomination until the CIA declassifies, with necessary redactions, all relevant information.

But the information already publicly available should be disqualifying. As head of a CIA “black site” in Thailand, Haspel oversaw torture, which included waterboarding and other acts of cruel and inhuman abuse. There are also credible accounts that her involvement in the program went much deeper.

In addition, she played a key role in destroying evidence: 92 videotapes showing the horrors of torture. She did so despite federal court orders requiring preservation of all records of detainee abuse, and over the objections of members of Congress, and numerous government officials — including her boss, the CIA director.

In short, she was a significant player in what Sen. John McCain calls one of the “darkest chapters” in our nation’s history.

During her confirmation hearings, Haspel will no doubt say that she opposes torture and promise not to participate in it even if ordered to do so. She will say all the right things. But when it most mattered, she did all the wrong things.

The torture program that she embraced not only violated our laws it weakened our security. It hindered cooperation with our allies, generated bogus information that bogged down investigations and handed a PR victory to terrorist groups, which used it to recruit new members.

To this day, in fact, they cite torture by the United States in their propaganda.

As a retired general, I believe our country’s civilian and military leaders have a sacred duty to try to ensure the safety of those who risk their lives fighting on the front lines. The torture program, however, made them less safe.

Sen. Collins is one of the most independent members of Congress. Sen. King is an actual independent. They both have track records of placing principle over partisanship, and this vote provides them an ideal opportunity to do just that.

As they said in a statement together in 2014, “Torture is wrong, and we must make sure that the misconduct and the grave errors made in the CIA’s detention and interrogation program never happen again.”

Then in 2015, they were two of the 78 senators who voted for the McCain-Feinstein Amendment, which affirmed the illegality of the very torture techniques that Haspel employed.

Confirmation of Haspel would send a dangerous message to the world, and to our nation’s intelligence services. It would say that we don’t care about our own laws, and that our opposition to torture is equivocal.

I respectfully urge Sens. Collins and King to do the opposite. In the name of the rule of law and national security, they should continue to draw a clear line against torture. They should reject the Haspel nomination.

Harry E. Soyster is a retired Army lieutenant general, former commanding general of the Army Intelligence and Security Command and former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.


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