Debra Burlingame, whose brother Charles "Chic" Burlingame was the pilot in command of American Airlines Flight 77 that was hijacked and slammed into the Pentagon in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, recommended Gina Haspel be named the director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Burlingame wrote to Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., with the recommendation, The Cipher Brief reported.
A rejection of Haspel would send a "terrible message," she wrote. "I am most concerned about the terrible message that will be sent to the men and women of the CIA if Gina Haspel is rejected by the Senate . . . she would not betray them by calling their actions, ordered by the president, legally authorized by the Department of Justice, and sanctioned by members of Congress, "immoral."
In the letter, Burlingame defended the use of waterboarding, noting Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape (SERE) training, which her brother and other military pilots went through, included waterboarding.
"Chic was a former carrier-based Navy fighter pilot who, like tens of thousands of military pilots, special forces operators, and intelligence officers, went through SERE training — Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape," Burlingame wrote in the letter. "He was put through many of the harsh measures that were the model for the CIA's RDI (Rendition, Detention, and Interrogation) program, including waterboarding, although he didn't call it that.
"He called it the 'water treatment' and only would say that it was 'very effective.'"
Burlingame said SERE training was designed to increase the psychological readiness of personnel that would be susceptible to capture.
"Former POWs had reported that psychological strength was more important than physical endurance," Burlingame wrote.
If confirmed, Haspel would become the first female CIA director. The U.S. intelligence community, including a group of 72 former CIA officers, called for lawmakers to confirm her for the job, calling her a "bold but pragmatic decision-maker."
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