Will Obama Torture Apologists Make a Triumphant Return to Joe Biden's White House?

His rumored candidate for CIA director, Michael Morell, is raising alarms.


President-elect Joe Biden is being warned not to bring torture apologists who served under President Barack Obama into his administration.

The Daily Beast reported this week that Biden was considering Michael Morell as a potential CIA director, but Sen. Ron Wyden (D–Ore.) had objections. Wyden publicly warned that Morell, who served as deputy director of the CIA under Obama, shouldn't be considered due to his past ties in obscuring CIA torture. CNN subsequently interviewed Wyden:

"No torture apologist can be confirmed as CIA director. It's a nonstarter," Wyden told CNN, referring to Morell's previous suggestions that the agency's so-called "enhanced interrogation" of terrorists was both effective and moral—claims that go further than those made by other officials who have faced scrutiny over the agency's handling of detainees at black sites, including former Director John Brennan and current Director Gina Haspel.

Wyden isn't the only person trying to raise alarms about Morell. Over at Just Security, Scott Roehm, along with Daniel Jones (who investigated the CIA torture and wrote the Senate Intelligence Committee's report on it), also warned against Morell. They note Morell's role in essentially absolving CIA staff (including current CIA Director Gina Haspel) of responsibility for destroying tapes of CIA torture of suspected terrorists during the Iraq War. He was also responsible for the CIA's response to the Senate's torture report, insisting that the CIA's methods had resulted in actionable intelligence. They had not. Roehm and Jones write:

In an interview … Morell said he rejected the description of the CIA program as torture "because to call it torture says my guys were torturers" and "I'm going to defend my guys to my last breath." He would go on to vocally support Haspel and her candidacy for CIA director.

CNN reported that Nick Shapiro, a spokesperson for Morell, insists that Morell was not familiar or involved with the CIA's torture program, didn't learn about it until 2006, and has since said that "he believed that waterboarding is indeed torture."

Biden hasn't named his choice for CIA director yet, but he did name Avril Haines as his choice for director of national intelligence. But Haines comes with similar baggage. Haines also supported Haspel's nomination as CIA director. And as deputy CIA director for a year under Obama, CNN notes, Haines made the decision not to punish any of the CIA employees who were secretly snooping on Jones and other Senate staffers working on the torture report.

As we start transitioning back to a Democratic administration, this fight is a reminder about the bipartisanship that drives a lot of the worst tendencies of national intelligence behavior. For anybody who might have forgotten what that looks like, check out The Report, which dramatizes the Senate's investigation of the CIA and absolutely does not shield the behavior of leaders under Obama from criticism.

NEXT: Americans Are Nowhere Near Herd Immunity to COVID-19

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  1. Scott your confused. Torture, wars, police brutality, totalitarianism, fascism, perjury, thought policing, and dictatorship are great if you have the magic (D) next to your name

    1. I’m guessing “dissent is the highest form of patriotism” is no longer in vogue come January.

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      3. Dissent will be a threat to the republic in January.

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    3. As in what you already believe, you mean?

      Maybe take a minute from endless hypocrisy hunting to examine your own terrible non-hypocritical support of evil.

      1. You are confusing him with Kirkland. Kuckland is a parody account, which has drifted.

  2. The CIA needs a complete overhaul and some additional oversight. Probably also needs a former military or diplomat leader in charge, rather than vested apologists who have the most to lose from a course correction.

    1. “The CIA needs a complete overhaul”

      I reluctantly agree. Still can’t believe they failed to prevent Russia from hacking the election and controlling our government for 4 years.


      1. Why link Maddow when you could link the Mueller Report, the several senate intel committee reports, or just a clip of DJT asking Russia for help at a presser?

        1. Lol. And you called others conspiratorial for mentioning hunters laptop. God you’re a fucking joke.

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    2. Good thing you voted Biden who went back to the Brennan form of torture. Real principles there.

      1. Someone has to run the re-education camps for the people on AoC’s list.

    3. I agree with De Oppresso Liber. Now I feel dirty and cheap.

      1. Oppresso means America needs a Socialist tyrant though. He’s just saying it like he is advocating some great leader of freedom.

    4. Probably also needs a former military or diplomat leader in charge . . .

      I thought you said it didn’t need vested apologists who have the most to lose from a course correction.

      Or can you name a former military or diplomat leader who isn’t part of the warfare state, been raised by it, molded by it, spent their whole adulthood serving it and being rewarded for doing so?

    5. America doesn’t need secret police.

  3. Senile Mackerel Snapper Bad?!? He BAD, all right! He SOOO BAD, He be GOOD! He be GREAT! He “Make America Woke”! MAW! All who are against Senile Mackerel Snapper Bad, are into MAWlessness, chaos, badness, and MAW-breaking! They are out-MAWs! MAKE AMERICA WOKE, I say!!!

    We KNOW He can Make America Woke again, because, as a bad-ass politician, He PUNISHED all of the MAW-breakers! He Hair Smeller-Feller in Chief!

    BACK from Beyond the Beyond, Beyond the Grave, it is the MAGA that Wouldn’t Die! MAGA Part II; Make America GREEN Again! The USA flag will now be… Red, White, and GREEN!


    All Hail to THE Hair Smeller in Chief!!! His Punishment Boner is BIGGER than ALL the rest of ours, put together!

    Most of all, HAIL the Chief, for having revoked karma! What comes around, will no longer go around!!! We CAN small ALL of THEIR hair, and they will NEVER think of smelling OUR hair, right back!

    Senile Mackerel Snapper Bad-Ass Hair-Smeller all right!

    Yes, we can! We CAN smell all the hair, all the time, and NONE will be smart enough to EVER smell our hair right back!

    These voters simply cannot or will not recognize the central illusion of politics… You can hair-smell all of the people some of the time, and you can hair-smell some of the people all of the time, but you cannot hair-smell all of the people all of the time! Sooner or later, karma catches up, and the others will hair-smell you right back!

    1. Is this the birth of a new sqrsly copy pasta?


      1. Hasta la pasta! With extra-cheesy cheese!!

        1. Take your Adderall, Sqrls dear, and leave the cat’s bum alone. It’s mean and Mr. Kittycakes doesn’t like it.

  4. Morell said he rejected the description of the CIA program as torture “because to call it torture says my guys were torturers” and “I’m going to defend my guys to my last breath.”

    Government Almighty dammit!!! CLASSIC “my tribe good; your tribe BAD!” WHEN, oh when, will humans evolve past stark-naked, power-grabbing, self-righteous tribalism?

    Makes me think of certain political tribalists in the USA who would kill the goose (democracy) that lays the golden egg (a multi-party state; non-dictatorial governments), ALL in the name of POWER for THEIR TRIBE!!!

    1. “because to call it torture says my guys were torturers” and “I’m going to defend my guys to my last breath.”

      Was Morell ever a cop? Because that sounds like a cop.

  5. “Torture apologist” is certainly a loaded term. We in the progressive / neocon / libertarian #Resistance usually prefer more responsible language.

    In any case, the last thing Biden should do is fill his government with weak appointees who are unwilling to confront Russia. If Morell understands that Putin’s 2016 attack on our democracy was comparable to Pearl Harbor and 9 / 11, I say give him the job.


    1. “It’s not torture when we do it.”

  6. yes what of it?

    1. The biden regime going full neocon and preparing to topple regimes was totally unforeseeable for a publication some of whose primary focus is on imperialistic foreign policy. It’s fucking comical. We didn’t have much of a shot of ending every conflict with Trump but at least we had a shot with him.

      1. Scott is the only writer who voted for Trump. There’s a reason you see his name on a lot of the articles pointing out how bad a decision Biden was.

        1. fair criticism of my dumbass generality.

  7. A Secretary of State that according to Reason is an “Avid backer of American military intervention” and a CIA head that is a “Torture apologist”. Boy, Biden IS a return to normalcy! Well done America!

    1. At least he’s not a big meanie head who tweets mean stuff all the time and make the Europeans feel bad. That’s WAY worse than a revolving door of Obama yes-men coming back to continue all the fucked up policies from the past 20 years. Sure, we’ll probably end up in some low-grade, expensive military police action in some 3rd world shithole, but at least all those soulless CIA torturers will get their jobs back and won’t have to answer any questions about what they’re doing with their phenomenal power. And no more mean tweets- that’s really the most important thing.

  8. If President Trump had been reelected, we could have avoided having to worry about Michael Morell at all.

    1. Reason likes being an impotent force against the grind of the establishment machine. I think the only person on the staff who remotely appreciated Trump for the absurd sideshow he was exposing the complete and utter nakedness of this dumb disgusting shitshow was Gillespie.

    2. Weird how CIA heads for Dem Presidents tend to exactly what the President wants while GOP ones, well, do not.

  9. how can alarms be raised by supporters?

  10. Load up on defense contractors stocks.

    1. and your CVS pharmacy stock.

  11. The Left and the majority of the media made themselves into shameless whores for Biden, you’ll take what he and his handlers give you and thank them for it. What else are you going to do, let the Nazis win?

  12. Of course they will. We’ve gone from stupid to evil.

  13. A representative with a D behind his name complaining about a torture apologist? You just elected a President that was VP for an administration that fell in that category. Why would you expect a difference?

  14. Biden voted for the Iraq war and implicitly approved torture.

  15. Biden is going to need all those “torture apologists”. How else will he be able to get confessions from Trump administration officials that they colluded with Putin to create the COVID-19 virus and blame it on China?

  16. and torture advocate Sen Tom Cotton (R) was in the news just week criticizing the incoming Biden administration.

    Seems the torture-apoligist / means-to-an-end crowd spans both sides of the partisan divide.

  17. Did they ever leave?

  18. Of course they will. What makes you think a leopard will change his spots after spending 50 years carefully painting them on?

    But remember Shackford – Trump was worse and had to go. Right?

  19. Biden is going to want all those “torture apologists”. How else will he be able to get confessions from Trump management officers that they colluded with Putin to create the COVID-19 virus and blame it on China?

    1. Cheap spambot whore is also a comment thief.

  20. The CIA wishes a entire overhaul and a few extra oversight. Probably also needs a former military or diplomat leader in charge, instead of vested apologists who’ve the maximum to lose from a direction correction.

  21. Is this the same old confused claims about waterboarding? It’s not torture. Try looking in a North Korean prison or any other dictatorship to learn what “actual” torture is.

    To lump waterboarding in with those other cruel actions dilutes the definition of real torture.

  22. Come on Scott. Begging the question?

    Of course they will.

    And after the Kraken’s release this morning, hopefully you won’t have to answer the question. I think seeing what Biden has been saying the last couple of week, a lot of people may be hoping in fact there was fraud and ‘reverse’ (because it was a sham anyway. Biden didn’t get 80 million votes. No way.) the results.

    Biden is Obama 3.0. And Barry thinks he’s going to be his chaperon.

  23. U.S.—Democrat experts are warning the public to avoid excess amounts of thankfulness this year after studies showed that feelings of gratefulness often lead to conservatism.

    “I cannot overstate how dangerous this is,” said DNC Chair Tom Perez. “If people start forgetting their many grievances and injustices, they may begin to think of living in America as a profound blessing from some non-existent deity and start voting for Republicans. This is unacceptable.”

    According to recently published studies, people who are filled with lasting gratefulness to God for the blessings of living in 21st century America — the freest, most prosperous, country that has ever existed on Earth — are approximately infinity times more likely to become conservatives.

    “We cannot allow people to acknowledge God, since that may cause people to feel less loyal to benevolent government overlords,” said Perez.

    Democrats recommend limiting your thankfulness to a 5-second thought or fleeting acknowledgment this season. After that, it is recommended you re-enter your victim mentality as soon as possible to avoid any further damage to it.

    “This Thanksgiving, stay safe,” said Perez, “and stay a victim.”

    -the Bee

    1. Rich characterization coming from the people who’s only policy idea in four years is “Waah they called me deplorable, punish them daddy!”

      1. Have you made sure there aren’t any Russians hiding under your bed?

  24. No to any torturer. But I’m watching you. I see what’s happening. A little rhetorical nudge here and there and all of a sudden Obama will be responsible for the Iraq war and torture despite getting elected by running against these things. I can smell Republican ratfucking from a mile away. You’ve already pinned the whole thing on Hillary and Biden. Is that why Republicans elect coke-addled incompetents president? Deniability?

  25. This will be after some major re-branding, of course. Apparently, “senior CIA officials” are now combat heroes who die protecting us from terrorism

  26. Sounds like he’d be a ringer. I’ll put support at 94-5 with 1 abstention. Probably do much better though.

  27. Biden is an old time establishment politician, that will be his choices. All those that believe in torture, illegal surveillance, and the rest of big government abuse have won.

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