Key Democrat, Ex-Torture Investigator Urge Biden Not to Pick Mike Morell as CIA Chief

A top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee warned President-elect Joe Biden against nominating former CIA official Mike Morell as his CIA Director, CNN reports.

Morell served as the deputy CIA director under Obama and has twice served as the agency’s acting director. He has been among Biden’s rumored picks for the top job.

But Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden vowed to torpedo such a pick.

"No torture apologist can be confirmed as CIA director. It's a nonstarter," Wyden told CNN, noting that Morell previously suggested that the CIA’s "enhanced interrogation" of terrorists was “both effective and moral.”

A spokesperson for Morell said he was not involved with the creation of the enhanced interrogation program and did not learn about it until years after it began.

“He publicly stated in a 2013 '60 (Minutes)' interview and wrote in his 2015 book that he believed waterboarding is indeed torture,” the spokesperson said. "Morell believes there were many mistakes with the EIT program and has written extensively on them.”

Former torture investigator warns Biden:

Former Intelligence Committee staffer Daniel Jones, who investigated the torture program, also urged Biden against picking Morell.

Anyone “complicit in torture or who frustrated oversight and accountability for torture” does not deserve an administration job, he said, according to Talking Points Memo.

A 2015 report authored by the committee staff criticized Morell for repeatedly contradicting internal discussions about the program.

"The 6,300-page December 2012 Committee Study to which Morell refers includes the following conclusion: 'The evidence the CIA provided for the effectiveness of the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques was found to be inaccurate.' The Committee Study has never included a conclusion about the effectiveness of the overall program and, in fact, details valuable information provided by CIA detainees, to include Abu Zubaydah and Hassan Ghul, prior to their being subjected to the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques," the report said.

Biden criticized for DNI pick:

Some have also criticized Biden for choosing former deputy CIA Director Avril Haines as director of national intelligence.

Haines chose not to punished CIA staff accused of improperly accessing the Senate investigators’ computers during the probe and later supported CIA Director Gina Haspel’s nomination despite her involvement in the torture program.

"Haines has an unfortunate record of repeatedly covering up for torture and torturers. Her push for maximalist redactions of the torture report, her refusal to discipline the CIA personnel who hacked the Senate and her vociferous support for Gina Haspel -- which was even touted by the Trump White House as Democrats stood in nearly unanimous opposition to the then-nominee to lead the CIA -- should be interrogated during the confirmation process," David Segal, co-founder and executive director of the group Demand Progress, told CNN.

Jones agreed.

“This is about the continuing cover-up of the torture program, the long legacy of that,” he told TPM. “And I wish I could say Haines wasn’t a part of that, but she was.”


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