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Whistleblowers condemned Donald Trump’s CIA director nominee Gina Haspel, who oversaw torture, and protesters disrupted her Senate confirmation hearing. Journalist Robert Scheer says this reflects the destructive “gangster elements” in the spy agency.

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BEN NORTON: It’s the Real News. I’m Ben Norton.

Donald Trump’s nominee for the new director of the CIA, Gina Haspel, was grilled in a Senate confirmation hearing on Wednesday, May 9. Haspel is notorious for overseeing a so-called black site, that is, an overseas prison where detainees were tortured by the CIA. Haspel also participated in the destruction of evidence documenting this torture at a black site in Thailand. On the day of her hearing, 115 former U.S. ambassadors sent a letter to the Senate expressing opposition to her nomination. The former diplomats wrote that the Senate should thoroughly investigate Haspel, and if she, quote, “played a role in torture or other forms of detainee abuse, or the destruction of evidence relating to such activities, we urge you to reject her nomination.” End quote.

In the Senate hearing, Haspel repeatedly refused to say whether or not the CIA’s past use of torture was immoral.

GINA HASPEL: Senator, I believe that CIA officers to whom you referred-.

SPEAKER: It’s a yes or no answer. Do you believe the previous interrogation techniques were immoral? I’m not asking do you believe they were legal. I’m asking do you believe they were immoral.

GINA HASPEL: Senator, I believe that CIA did extraordinary work to prevent another attack on this country given the legal tools that we were authorized to use.

SPEAKER: Please answer yes or no.

BEN NORTON: That is Gina Haspel, the CIA director nominee, at the Senate confirmation hearing. Numerous whistleblowers have spoken out against Haspel’s nomination. Former CIA officer Ray McGovern disrupted the Senate hearing in protest of Haspel’s nomination. Police violently brutalized the 84-year-old CIA whistleblower on camera. Ex-CIA analyst John Kiriakou, who was imprisoned for exposing the CIA’s use of torture, has also publicly opposed Hapel’s nomination. And NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden likewise tweeted, quote” “If the Congress confirms Gina Haspel, who admitted to participating in a torture program and personally writing the order to destroy evidence of that crime, is qualified to head the CIA it says more about our government than it does about her.”.

Joining us to discuss the CIA scandal is Robert Scheer. Scheer is a renowned journalist who has covered politics for more than 50 years. He is the former editor of the legendary magazine Ramparts, and is today the editor in chief of the website Truthdig, where he writes a regular column. Scheer is also the author of 10 books. Thanks for joining me. Bob.

ROBERT SCHEER: OK. Should we jump right in? Why don’t I just say something about that, because I know Ray. I also worked at the Los Angeles Times for 29 years covering a lot of these issues, and Ray McGovern was always a highly respected source. We should make it clear, there were two CIA. There is the analysis side, which was supposed to be the main purpose of the CIA. To gather information, to analyze, to figure out what was going on in the world. And Ray McGovern was a stellar member of that part of the CIA. And the information that they came up with, whether it was about the old Soviet Union or what was going on with terrorism and so forth, has generally been proven to be accurate.

The only problem is the government, different governments didn’t listen to what the analysis, analysts were saying. And Ray McGovern himself briefed the president of the United States on a number of occasions. He was a high-ranking expert on Russia, on what was happening in the world. And to have a man of that quality and that patriotism, that seriousness of purpose, be treated as if he was a bank robber on speed or something was obscene. And there are plenty of people around the world who know of Ray McGovern ‘ s work, of his writing, and the idea that he was treated in that way, it’s horrific. And at a hearing in which you’re investigating, really, the dark side. That’s what Gina Haspel comes from. These are the people who do all the mischief and that’s the side of the CIA that has basically gotten it wrong time after time. The Bay of Pigs, you know, figuring out what was happening with terrorism before 9/11. Not talking to the FBI. The torture program. You could go through one chapter after another. Weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

And that’s the part of the CIA that’s a travesty, a stain, that dark stain on American history, and has misled us. And has misled us by using secrecy. They’re not accountable. So to take someone associated with the worst aspects, this is what Ray McGovern was trying to say. Someone that was associated with the worst aspects of the CIA and make them head of the whole thing after, after we have learned that she destroyed evidence needed to know whether crimes were committed, she destroyed evidence that we had a right to have. She was involved in torture. No one is even questioning that. And she was involved in the coverup. To take someone from that wing of the CIA, the dark, miserable, murderous, deceiving side, and put them in was particularly offensive to someone like Ray McGovern, who, after all, was trying to enlighten us.

And he knows how much damage that side of the CIA did. He spent a lot of time once he retired exposing their arrogance and, you know, how, and their embrace of violence as opposed to logic and fact.

BEN NORTON: Yeah. On the subject of Ray, in fact, we have a video clip here. This is a shocking clip of former 27-year CIA analyst Ray McGovern disrupting the Senate hearing in protest of Gina Haspel’s nomination. And this, this video clip shows police violently pulling him out, he’s, again, 84 years old, and throwing him onto the ground. And Ray says that his arm has been dislocated in this. Please watch here.

So Bob, can you respond to this? I mean, you spoke a little bit about it. But specifically the irony that you have a veteran CIA analyst who is speaking out against the use of torture and violence by the CIA, who is in turn violently assaulted by police and thrown out of the room onto the floor.

ROBERT SCHEER: Well, I think you put it well. I just want to make a point here. The CIA is an agency that is out of control, and they are not doing the job that they were created to do. They’re not making us safer. They keep getting it wrong. And they get it wrong not because of their brilliant analysts like Ray McGovern, who generally develop an accurate view of the world, and it’s complex, and they try to inform the politicians. That’s not where the damage is coming from. The damage is coming from the gangster element. The, the people who believe assassination, and talk about meddling in elections, these people have meddled in almost every election that’s taken place in the post-World War II period. And they’ve they’ve engaged in assassinations and assassination plots at one time, whether it was in Cuba, whether it was Eastern Europe, whether it was the Middle East. There’s no question about that dark, horrible record. And so the torture is really, you know, sort of the ultimate evidence of how out of control and how much of a violation of everything a country is supposed to stand for, what they represent.

And to pick someone from, you can’t ask her any questions. You know, this is a professional liar, by the way. This is a woman who is trained to lie. This is a woman who’s lied about most of the things in her professional life. To expect her to be accountable about the super-secret agency when she spent her life denying the value of truth, denying the value of logic, never being held accountable for their lives including whether torture worked. You know, all of the evidence is clear that torture even though it just, aside from being profoundly immoral and a horrible example to the world, also didn’t produce any credible evidence. On the contrary it produced error. And at the same time, here is someone who’s taken from that world of error and deceit, distortion, violence, and you’re making her in charge of the whole agency.

You know, and that’s been presented as somehow a victory for women. If you’re against her, you’re against women breaking through the glass ceiling. I mean, it’s a nutty view. I think it was deliberately done by Donald Trump to burnish his reputation, because he’s known to have such a hostile attitude towards women. Oh, ok, I’ll show you a woman who’s even nastier than I am, you know. And that’s who you have now. And I mean, it’s really quite depressing.

BEN NORTON: Well, unfortunately we’ll have to end our discussion there. But we were joined by Robert Scheer, who is a longtime award-winning journalist. He is the editor in chief of Truthdig, and also a longtime columnist. We were speaking about Gina Haspel who is the new nomination for CIA director. Thanks for joining us, Bob.


BEN NORTON: Reporting for the Real News, I’m Ben Norton.

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Robert Scheer has built a reputation for strong social and political writing over his 30 years as a journalist. His columns appear in newspapers across the country, and his in-depth interviews have made headlines. He conducted the famous Playboy magazine interview in which Jimmy Carter confessed to the lust in his heart and he went on to do many interviews for the Los Angeles Times with Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and many other prominent political and cultural figures.

Between 1964 and 1969 he was Vietnam correspondent, managing editor and editor in chief of Ramparts magazine. From 1976 to 1993 he served as a national correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, writing on diverse topics such as the Soviet Union, arms control, national politics and the military. In 1993 he launched a nationally syndicated column based at the Los Angeles Times, where he was named a contributing editor. That column ran weekly for the next 12 years and is now based at Scheer can be heard on his new podcast “Scheer Intelligence” and the radio program "Left, Right and Center" on KCRW, the National Public Radio affiliate in Santa Monica, Calif. He is currently a clinical professor of communication at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

Scheer has written ten books, including "Thinking Tuna Fish, Talking Death: Essays on the Pornography of Power"; "With Enough Shovels: Reagan, Bush and Nuclear War"; "America After Nixon: The Age of Multinationals"; "The Five Biggest Lies Bush Told Us about Iraq" (with Christopher Scheer and Lakshmi Chaudhry); "Playing President: My Close Encounters with Nixon, Carter, Bush I and Clinton--and How They Did Not Prepare Me for George W. Bush"; "The Pornography of Power: How Defense Hawks Hijacked 9/11 and Weakened America"; "The Great American Stickup: How Reagan Republicans and Clinton Democrats Enriched Wall Street While Mugging Main Street"; "How the United States Got Involved in Vietnam"; and "Cuba: An American Tragedy". Scheer's latest book is "They Know Everything About You: How Data Collecting Corporations and Snooping Government Agencies are Destroying Democracy" (Nation Books, February 2015).

Scheer was raised in the Bronx, where he attended public schools and graduated from City College of New York. He was Maxwell Fellow at Syracuse University and a fellow at the Center for Chinese Studies at the University of California at Berkeley, where he did graduate work in economics. Scheer is a contributing editor for The Nation as well as a Nation Fellow. He has also been a Poynter Fellow at Yale and was fellow in Stanford's arms control and disarmament program.