May 9, 2018

Gina Haspel says she'll refuse "immoral" orders from Trump

Gina Haspel is sworn in during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Trump's CIA nominee Gina Haspel, whose highly anticipated confirmation hearing began Wednesday, said that, if confirmed, she will not follow any orders from her superiors that she believes to be immoral, "even if it was technically legal."

Why it matters: This is a primary concern for the Senate Intelligence Committee, given Haspel's record on the agency's prior use of torture . Haspel told the senators: “I support the higher moral standard... I would never, ever, take CIA back to the interrogation program.”

  • Regarding her involvement in the destruction of interrogation tapes: "There was a great deal of concern about the security risks to CIA officers who were depicted on the tapes... Our lawyers were very consistent in saying to us that there was no legal requirement to retain the tapes, [and] no legal impediment to disposing of the tapes."
  • On the interrogation program, Haspel said that she was told interrogation experts designed it, and it was approved by the attorney general and the president.
  • On the issue of waterboarding: Haspel said she doesn't believe Trump would ask her to subject a detainee to that. Remember: Trump said on the campaign trail he would bring back waterboarding.
  • She repeatedly declined to give Sen. Kamala Harris a "yes" or "no" answer on whether she believes the CIA's techniques were immoral.

Go deeper

Kenan Thompson and Hasan Minhaj to headline White House Correspondents' Dinner

Kenan Thompson on "SNL" in 2018. Photo: Rosalind O'Connor/NBC via Getty Images

Kenan Thompson, the longest-tenured "Saturday Night Live" cast member, will host the White House Correspondents' Association dinner on April 25.

And Hasan Minhaj — host of Netflix’s "Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj," and the entertainer at the 2017 dinner — will return as featured entertainer.

"Billions": Season 2020

Mike Bloomberg speaks at Hardywood Park Craft Brewery in Richmond, Va., on Saturday. Photo: James H. Wallace/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP

Money alone can’t buy a presidential election, but it surely gets you VIP access.

Why it matters: Billionaire Michael Bloomberg is duking it out with Billionaire Donald Trump, often on Billionaire Jack Dorsey’s Twitter and in ads on Billionaire Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook, all chronicled in Billionaire Jeff Bezos’ Washington Post. 

Biometrics invade banking and retail

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Banks have been quietly rolling out biometrics to identify customers — verifying them by their fingerprint, voice or eye scan — and retailers like Amazon are getting into the game.

Why it matters: These companies are amassing giant databases of our most personal information — including our gait, how we hold our cellphones, our typing patterns — that raise knotty questions about data security and privacy.