Home/The State of the Union/Morell Would Be a Terrible Choice for CIA Director

Morell Would Be a Terrible Choice for CIA Director

Several Democratic senators have expressed reservations about Mike Morell, who is being considered as a possible nominee for CIA Director. The senators have cited his past defenses of the torture program from the 2000s as the main reason for their opposition:

Within the past two weeks, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D., Vt.) and Sen. Martin Heinrich (D., N.M.) voiced reservations about Mr. Morell, a former acting director of the CIA who had been widely seen by lawmakers and former officials as a top contender for the job, these people said.

Their doubts add to those publicly expressed last week by Sen. Ron Wyden (D., Ore.), who said he would oppose Mr. Morell’s nomination for the post, which has been left unspecified even as Mr. Biden has moved quickly to name other senior national-security personnel.

Morell’s record of apologizing for the agency’s use of torture and his defense of Gina Haspel’s role in covering up some of these crimes are enough to warrant rejecting him as the next CIA Director. When he was CIA deputy director under Obama, he wrote a memo defending Haspel’s destruction of tapes that documented the torture of detainees. He has also made his own views on the torture program clear:

All of these omissions are unsurprising given Morell’s apparent bias in favor of shielding CIA officers from any real accountability related to the torture program generally, and his clear agreement with the decision to destroy the tapes specifically.

In a 2015 interview with Vice News, Morell said that he rejected the description of the CIA program as torture “because to call it torture says my guys were torturers…they were told what they were doing was legal, and I’m going to defend my guys to my last breath.”

Morell’s refusal to call torture by its proper name is damning in itself. It also helps explain why there has been no accountability for these crimes. Because he doesn’t want to acknowledge the illegality of what was done, he simply pretends that it wasn’t torture. If he were to admit the truth, that would mean acknowledging that his “guys” committed crimes, and he doesn’t want to do that. That is exactly the kind of thinking we don’t want from someone in charge of the agency. Biden should not nominate someone involved in whitewashing the agency’s ugly record.

If the president-elect is serious about “building back better,” he should not appoint a torture apologist to head the CIA. If Biden makes the mistake of nominating Morell, the Senate should reject him.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

leave a comment

Latest Articles