According to two sources familiar with the deliberations, Morell, who was deputy director of the CIA under President Barack Obama and twice the executive director of the agency, is a full-time candidate under Biden’s direction who notes that others will remain in the mix.
But Morell’s prospects for leading the CIA have provoked harsh criticism from members of Biden’s own party – namely Ron Wyden, an Oregon Senate member of the Intelligence Committee who will eventually vote on whether to confirm the candidates.
“No torture apologist can be confirmed as a CIA director. This is not a trigger,” Wyden told CNN, referring to Morell’s earlier suggestions that the agency’s so-called “enhanced interrogation” was both effective and moral to terrorists – allegations that go further. they go like them. published by other officials who had to review the agency’s treatment of inmates in the black spot, including former director John Brennan and current director Gina Haspel.
Wyden opposes Biden appointing Morell, jeopardizing his chances of taking advantage of this job, even though his name has long hovered as a racer. Several sources familiar with the discussions on the internal transition have told CNN that the decision will remain in the air and there is no clear lead in the role.
As such, Biden, despite not announcing a candidate for CIA director on Tuesday, despite formally presenting his selections for other key national security positions, including the election of Avril Haines as national director of national intelligence, who has faced criticism of accomplices accused of complicity or torture by the CIA. In the application of “enhanced interrogation techniques” after 11 September.
Morell’s name has come up several times in recent weeks as a possible choice for a CIA director, given the agency’s leadership experience. But while some Democrats have long considered it a likely election by the Senate Intelligence Committee, Wyden made it clear he will vote against Morell’s confirmation because of his public remarks about resistance to torture and congressional oversight.
A congressional aide said Morell’s earlier remarks against the CIA’s increased resistance to enhanced interrogation techniques and congressional oversight were problematic.
California’s 2015 report by California Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s CIA enhanced interrogation program dropped Morell because it repeatedly contradicted references to internal agency cables and studies related to efforts to extract information from al-Qaeda suspects. that findings on the effectiveness of measures such as water talk have been misinterpreted.
Nick Shapiro, a former CIA deputy chief of staff who currently works as a spokesman for Morell, refuted Wyden’s claim and told CNN, “Michael Morell is one of the smartest, most committed and most diligent intelligence officers.” it has served Democrats and Republicans alike for decades: it was with President Bush on Sept. 11, with President Obama when we removed Osama bin Laden.
“Morell was not involved in any way in setting up the EIT program and only found out about it in 2006, four years after its inception. He made a public statement in an interview in 60 (minutes) in 2013 and wrote in 2015. A book that he said water sports were really torture. “
“Morell believes there were a lot of mistakes in the EIT program and he wrote a lot about them,” Shapiro said.
Still, the participation and public support of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation program remains an issue for Morell and other individuals Biden has already nominated for top intelligence positions.
Some progressives questioned Haines ’achievements on sensitive issues and accused him of complicity in the CIA’s torture program.
While serving as CIA Deputy Director from 2013 to 2014, Haines decided not to punish agency staff accused of improper access to Senate Intelligence Committee computers while investigating the use of CIA enhanced interrogation techniques – this debate Democrats provoked criticism on the panel.
He also voiced his support for Haspel when he was appointed to the job in 2018 and was criticized for participating in the CIA’s George W. Bush interrogation programs, including those reportedly held on the “black spot.” were executed in prison.
At the time, Haines ’support for Haspel was opposed by many democracies on the board, and that remains a sticking point for some within the party.
“Haines has unfortunately uncovered torture and torturers on several occasions. He called for a maximalist withdrawal of the torture report, refused to discipline CIA staff who broke into the Senate, and gave loud support to Gina Haspel – which even as Trump White House Democrats almost unanimously opposed. the then-candidate for the CIA leadership – to be questioned during the ratification process, ”David Segal, co-founder and CEO of Demand Progress Group, told CNN.
But Morell’s remarks, which portray “torture” as a useful tool, could be considered more serious for some Democrats if he was appointed CIA director and raise further questions about Biden’s election to the agency in the coming days.