The White House is insisting that Gina Haspel move forward in nomination as director of the Central Intelligence Agency, despite her own concerns that the Senate hearings—expected to begin Wednesday—could turn brutal over her history in the CIA’s torture program. The Trump administration would be smart to heed her concerns.
Predictably, progressives like Senators Elizabeth Warren, Ron Wyden, and Bernie Sanders have come out strongly against her. Libertarian Republican Senator Rand Paul said not only that he’ll vote against Haspel, but that he’ll filibuster her nomination. Paul does that kind of thing to nominees who have a background in the CIA’s torture program—he also filibustered, albeit unsuccessfully, John Brennan’s nomination as CIA director when President Obama made that appointment in 2013.
But in addition to progressive and libertarian concerns, there is also a conservative case to be made against Haspel—and certainly a Christian case against her.
Almost none of my progressive friends know that I’m a former adjunct professor of intelligence studies at Liberty University, the right-wing evangelical university founded by the late Jerry Falwell. Liberty prides itself on its record of turning out conservatives and evangelicals and preparing them for a lifetime of activism. While there, I was assigned to the Helms School of Government, named after the late Republican senator Jesse Helms, one of the most deeply conservative members that body has ever seen. I genuinely liked and respected every professor and administrator I encountered at the Helms School, and I consider many of them to be my friends.
When Liberty first offered me a job, I asked, “Why would you want somebody like me? We will probably end up disagreeing on 99 percent of issues.” The response was quick: “Because torture is not Christian.” I accepted the position and I’m glad I did.
One of my closest friends at Liberty, a man whom I considered to be something of a mentor, was Dr. Charles Murphy. Chuck is a patriot, a minister, and a former CIA officer. He’s immensely proud of his CIA career, which he completed before earning a Ph.D. and going into academia. At the end of my first semester at Liberty, he shared with me the final exam for his intelligence analysis class, so simple yet so profound that it has stuck with me all these years. It forms the basis of what I believe is the conservative, evangelical Christian case against Gina Haspel.
Chuck’s final had only four questions. The first was this: let’s say you are a CIA operations officer. You’ve just captured one of the most important terrorists in the world. You know from other sources that there is a bomb about to go off in two hours in a major American city, but you don’t know exactly where. You know that the terrorist knows the details of the attack. Do you torture him? Explain your answer.
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