Sputnik: Tell us please, what do you make of Trump’s decision to nominate Gina Haspel as the new director of the CIA and how has the agency accepted this? This is the first woman to be nominated and she’s a woman with quite a background, I understand.
Johnson: There are mixed emotions about her. She entered on duty, started the same year I did back in 1985. She was in the career trainee class prior to mine, as I understand. Her involvement was as a foot soldier in this, what we call the war on terror.
In that regard she was involved at the black site in Thailand and overseeing water-boarding. There remains, while I personally believe water-boarding is torture and I think there is a body of evidence to support that. But in the United States it is still something that is very hotly debated and wide disagreement on it that many feel that such activities and practices are justified.
So she is a potentially controversial pick before some. They will use her to attack Donald Trump. But from Donald Trump’s standpoint, he sees her as someone ideologically consistent with him. So there are strong feelings on both sides.
I know John Kiriakou and I know that an FBI agent retired Ali Soufan will be speaking out against her, and testifying against her because both had direct personal knowledge about her activities.
Unfortunately, a lot of John’s comments will be dismissed because he went to prison for allegedly exposing the identity of a classified CIA officer undercover. But I think John’s criticisms are well-grounded and I think he does know what he is talking about in this regard.
Sputnik: Do you think there are more Americans in favor of these torture methods? I’m just expecting that John McCain, who was himself a prisoner of war and perhaps underwent various types of torture, would probably have something different to say on this matter.
Johnson: John McCain has always been, and this has been one of a few areas where he has actually been consistent. In many of his other policy pronouncements he can be all over the board, but on this he has been consistent about it because he suffered at the hands of the North Vietnamese when he was in custody and held as a prisoner during the Vietnam War.
So, he knows firsthand how terrible it is and I give him credit for that. But his and that of some of the Democrats like Ron Wyden and others, theirs really remains a minority view. I think, the majority of Americans actually probably embrace this or say that the end justifies the mean.
Sputnik: To what extent does the director of the CIA really define the overall methods of operating of the CIA? Who is really instrumental in creating policy, is it really the director or is it the president or other people?
Johnson: I think the director sets a tone and it certainly sends what I consider the moral message to put somebody at the top of the organization who comes out of this background of having been engaged with these torture practices or as they call them, the euphemism is “enhanced interrogation.”
She will argue that everything she was doing was according to the law, but there comes a point in the life, I think, of any intelligence officer where you have to ask yourself is this right.
The views and opinions expressed by Larry Johnson are those of the analyst and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.