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Obama's CIA chief defends Trump's pick

Former CIA Director Leon Panetta says he supports Gina Haspel's nomination for CIA director, despite her reported role in the agency's torture program during the Bush administration.

Posted: Mar 15, 2018 11:19 AM
Updated: Mar 15, 2018 11:19 AM

A former head of the CIA expressed his support Wednesday morning for Gina Haspel, the woman nominated by President Donald Trump to take over the spy agency.

Leon Panetta, who led the agency for two years during President Barack Obama's presidency and was also a chief of staff to President Bill Clinton, told CNN's "New Day" co-anchor Chris Cuomo that Haspel "really ought to be judged based on her entire record."

Following Trump's Tuesday morning announcement of her nomination, Haspel's role in the CIA's interrogation and detention program has been scrutinized. The 30-year CIA veteran ran a CIA "black site" prison in Thailand in 2002, and she later played a role in the CIA's destruction of tapes of the interrogation sessions of terrorism detainees.

Several key Republican senators say Haspel will have to answer for her role in the program at her confirmation hearing.

Panetta pointed out that although the practices ended when Obama took office, he understands the mentality behind them. He urged people to contextualize the interrogations and recall that they took place after September 11.

"I don't agree with the standards that were put in place, but at the same time, I think we just need to think about that time and the way we approach the threat to the country," said Panetta, explaining that concern over preventing future terrorist attacks against America was prevalent.

"Just judge that and look at her entire record, that's all I ask," he said.

He also said he is excited to see the first female nominee to be the head of the CIA.

"I'm glad that it's Gina, because frankly, she is someone who really knows the CIA inside out," he said.

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