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What Message Would CIA Director Haspel Send? Kentucky's Senators Disagree.

AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin
Art Laffin, of Washington, center, joins others in protest against the use of torture and the nomination of Gina Haspel to head the CIA, Wednesday, May 9, 2018, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is lining up solidly behind President Donald Trump’s pick to head the CIA, but the nominee still needs to convince Kentucky’s junior senator her confirmation won’t send the wrong signal to international allies and adversaries.

In hearings on Capitol Hill Wednesday, Haspel offered an unequivocal pledge not to resurrect the agency’s deeply divisive post-9/11 interrogation and detention policies. That question lies at the heart of bipartisan handwringing about Haspel’s nomination, and it’s also prompted yet another split between McConnell and the commonwealth's less politically predictable senator, Rand Paul.

In a Senate floor address, McConnell said Haspel's resume could "hardly be better tailored for the specific challenges that our nation faces at this very moment" and that the Kentucky native would "help defend the homeland from terrorists and help secure America’s position on the world stage."

But world opinion is high on the list of Paul's concerns.

"I have three nephews who serve in the military," the libertarian-minded legislator told WUKY last Friday. "I don't want the rest of the world to think that if they capture our soldiers that torture is ok."

Observers have singled out Paul and Sen. Susan Collins of Maine as two ky votes to watch in the confirmation hearings for the 33-year CIA veteran and Ashland, Kentucky native. In the meantime, Paul has been tweeting articles critical of Haspel, including a piece by the American Conservative with the tagline “Who would Jesus torture?

McConnell said the nation must be prepared for a “new era of competition between powerful nations” and praised Haspel as the perfect candidate to lead the CIA at this “critical juncture.”

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.
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