The Coalition for Jewish Values (CJV), in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office on Thursday, endorsed Acting CIA Director Gina Haspel to permanently head the agency. The left-wing T’ruah organization previously came out in opposition to her nomination because she once supervised a CIA facility where “enhanced interrogation” was conducted, which T’ruah called “torture” and “an extreme moral offense.”
The CJV, a group representing over 1000 traditional rabbis in matters of public policy, responded that condemnation of a well-qualified candidate on this basis was misdirected. “An accurate moral calculus… requires that we balance the rights of captured terrorists against those of their intended victims,” said the CJV letter. It pointed out that the CIA “used these techniques for one reason only: to save American civilian lives from further acts of terrorism.”
“Our point is that intent, situation and individuals all matter here,” said Rabbi Pesach Lerner, President of the CJV. “Imagine a parent’s worst nightmare: a child kidnapped by an evil person, whom the police have now captured but without her. Would you tell police to refrain from ‘enhanced interrogation’ if necessary to find the innocent child before she dies of hunger and thirst? Would you call that moral and sleep well at night?”
The letter pointed to the request by Khalid Shaik Mohammed, mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, to provide information to Senators, presumably to condemn CIA interrogation methods. “We ask,” said the rabbis of the CJV, “is it moral to refrain from doing everything possible to extract information from such a person, if such restraint risks another terrorist atrocity? With all due respect, Mohammed’s right to be treated gently is not greater than Todd Beamer’s right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness — not to mention Mohammed’s thousands of other victims.”
“Our Rabbis warned us,” concluded Rabbi Lerner, “that ‘One who is Kind to the Cruel will ultimately become Cruel to the Kind.’ It seems they had in mind a case such as this one.”
The Coalition for Jewish Values (CJV), the largest rabbinic public policy organization in America, articulates and advocates for public policy positions based upon traditional Jewish thought.