Congressman Liz Cheney issues support for program linked to torture

Published: Mar. 15, 2018 at 2:41 PM CDT
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Wyoming Congressman Liz Cheney is doubling down on her support of the Enhanced Interrogation Program.

In a series of tweets that began on Tuesday, March 13, the Republican issued her approval of Gina Haspel, President Donald Trump’s pick for new CIA director. Although she would be the first woman to occupy the role, Haspel’s name is linked to the CIA's former covert program where suspected terrorists were subjected to harsh interrogation methods.

Known as the Enhanced Interrogation Program, it is widely regarded as a program that used torture techniques, such as waterboarding and sleep deprivation, to get information from detainees. The European Court of Human Rights has already ruled those enhanced interrogation techniques as torture.

Following Haspel’s nomination, Republican Senator John McCain sent a tweet saying, “The torture of detainees in U.S. custody during the last decade was one of the darkest chapters in American history. The Senate must do its job in scrutinizing the record & involvement of Gina Haspel in this disgraceful program.”

During his service in the Vietnam War, John McCain was taken as a POW for more than five years, subjected to torture and solitary confinement. As a US senator, McCain has advocated against using torture methods to detract intelligence.

Cheney responded to her fellow Republican’s statement with another tweet, defending the use of those techniques. “The Enhanced Interrogation Program saved lives, prevented attacks, & produced intel that led to Osama bin Laden. The techniques were the same as those used on our own people in the SERE program. No one should slander the brave men & women who carried out this crucial program.”

That response led to a response from John Weaver who chimed in to the defense of McCain. Weaver is a political strategist who worked on both the McCain and John Kasich presidential campaigns.

“Understand you are defending your father's record/viewpoint, but the facts are clear.” Weaver responded in his tweet, “What you stated isn't true. And America is better than this Liz. Truly a dark chapter in American history & not slander, but truth. Deal with it and move on.”

Cheney quickly responded afterwards saying, “John Weaver apparently knows even less about national security, history, and the war on terror than he does about winning elections.”

This apparent disagreement with her fellow Republicans over the nomination of Gina Haspel and possible use of torture grew to include Republican Rand Paul of Kentucky. Senator Paul spoke to Fox News about Haspel and her alleged involvement in interrogations, saying: "It almost seemed to be a little bit of glee in her voice that she actually enjoyed the torture, and I think that's not who we need to lead the CIA... We should not reward somebody who actually participated in torture treatment."

Sen. Paul said he doesn’t believe America should be known for torture, and he was referencing a book in which Haspel was quoted.

Cheney responded to Paul’s criticism of Haspel with another tweet saying, “Gina Haspel has spent her career defending the American people and homeland. @RandPaul is defending and sympathizing with terrorists.”

CBS NewsChannel 5 reached out to Congressman Cheney’s office to get clarification on the tweets. Her Press Secretary Maddy Weast responded to our request saying, “Congresswoman Cheney has always strongly supported the Enhanced Interrogation Program. Information gained through this program saved lives, prevented attacks and helped us find Osama bin Laden. The techniques used in this program were not torture. They are the same techniques that are used in training our own servicemen and women in programs like the SERE program. The men and women who participated in this program are patriots who kept our nation safe and should not be slandered by anyone.”

Cheney has pinned her original tweet to her Twitter page as well as issued an ICYMI (In Case You Missed It) tweet with the original statement.

President Trump has been vocal about his support of torture when it comes to war detainees. When asked if Haspel’s appointment to the director role would see a return to the use of "black sites," a CIA spokesperson told CBS News: "This appointment is simply about putting in place the best person for the job."