As Trump Nominates Torture Boss To Head CIA, Congresswoman Suggests It's Sympathizing With Terrorists To Question Her Appointment

from the say-what-now? dept

Update: Late this evening ProPublica retracted and corrected a story from last year, saying that Haspel was in charge of the Thai CIA prison site while Zubaydah was tortured. That does suggest that some of the accusations against Haspel actually should be blamed on her predecessor. As the correction notes, she did not arrive to run the base until October of 2002, after Zubaydah’s torture had concluded. However the report quotes the NY Times saying that she did still oversee the torture of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri and that she was still involved in the destruction of the video tapes of the torture sessions — both of which should be disqualifying from the job.

In addition, these kinds of mistakes wouldn’t be made if the government actually came clean over what it did and who did it. Revealing who ran that prison site and what they did would not harm national security. It would provide an accurate accounting of what really went down. I’m sure that some Haspel supporters will argue that this correction mean that all of the concerns about Haspel are “fake news” even though that’s clearly not true at all. Instead, this seems like even more evidence for why the details of her involvement needs to be declassified prior to facing confirmation hearings in the Senate. Our original article is below.

As you’ve probably heard, with the latest in the neverending rotating cast of characters that makes up the current Trump administration, a set of dominoes has been knocked over with the tweeted firing of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the nomination of CIA boss (and former Congressional Rep/longtime defender of surveillance and torture) Mike Pompeo to replace him. While Pompeo was a vocal supporter of the CIA’s torture program, he didn’t actually have any hand in running it. Instead, that distinction goes to Gina Haspel, whom Trump has nominated to take Pompeo’s place. Haspel not only oversaw parts of the CIA’s torture program, she was also directly involved with the destruction of the video tapes showing the torture procedures. The still classified 6,700 page Senate report on the program apparently contains a lot of details about the program that Haspel ran while running a CIA blacksite in Thailand. Annabelle Timsit has helpfully pulled together some details of what is currently known from the heavily redacted declassified executive summary (you may recall we spent years writing about the fight to just release that summary). What’s stunning is that the program so disgusted CIA employees that some were at the “point of tears and choking up” and multiple people on site asked to be moved to other locations if the CIA was going to continue these torture techniques. From the report (see the update above, noting that these quotes were from a couple months before Haspel took over):

CIA personnel at DETENTION SITE GREEN reported being disturbed by the use of the enhanced interrogation techniques against Abu Zubaydah. CIA records include the following reactions and comments by CIA personnel:

  • August 5, 2002: “want to caution [medical officer] that this is almost certainly not a place he’s ever been before in his medical career. … It is visually and psychologically very uncomfortable.”
  • August 8, 2002: “Today’s first session … had a profound effect on all staff members present … it seems the collective opinion that we should not go much further … everyone seems strong for now but if the group has to continue … we cannot guarantee how much longer.”
  • August 8, 2002: “Several on the team profoundly affected … some to the point of tears and choking up.”
  • August 9, 2002: “two, perhaps three [personnel] likely to elect transfer” away from the detention site if the decision is made to continue with the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques.
  • August 11, 2002: Viewing the pressures on Abu Zubaydah on video “has produced strong feelings of futility (and legality) of escalating or even maintaining the pressure.” Per viewing the tapes, “prepare for something not seen previously.”

In other words, for all the people out there who insist this was not torture, even the CIA people working on the program clearly felt that it went way beyond the line.

Perhaps even more incredible is that Ali Soufan, the former FBI agent who interrogated Abu Zubaydah before the CIA’s team of torturers took over, has written a damning article about that program:

I know firsthand how brutal these techniques were—and how counterproductive. In 2002, I interrogated an al-Qaeda associate named Abu Zubaydah. Using tried-and-true nonviolent interrogation methods, we extracted a great deal of valuable intelligence from Zubaydah—including the identities of the 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the would-be “dirty bomber” Jose Padilla, both of whom would be arrested shortly after. Yet some officials later tried to manipulate the record to make it seem as if this intelligence was gained through torture, even going so far as to misstate the date of Padilla’s arrest, which in fact occurred before Zubaydah or any other al-Qaeda suspect was waterboarded.

Unsurprisingly, the CIA’s own inspector general concluded that the torture program failed to produce any significant actionable intelligence; and I testified to the same effect under oath in the Senate. What’s worse, the program has gotten in the way of justice: To this day, we cannot prosecute terrorists such as the masterminds behind the USS Cole and 9/11 attacks, in large part because the evidence against them is tainted by torture.

Soufan also calls out Haspel’s role in destroying the evidence of torture.

In 2005, Jose Rodriguez, the CIA’s counterterrorism chief, ordered the destruction of some 92 videotapes of the harsh methods being used on al-Qaeda suspects that the black site Haspel had once run. Rodriguez issued this order in defiance not only of the CIA’s own general counsel at the time, John Rizzo, but also of a federal court order. And to draft the cable ordering the tapes to be thrown into an “industrial-strength shredder,” Rodriguez turned to his then-chief of staff—Haspel.

Rodriguez was later criticized for his actions by the CIA’s inspector general; but true accountability—for the torture program itself, as well as for the destruction of evidence—has proved elusive. This gives rise to another set of questions that will need to be pressed in the Senate. Was Haspel pleased with the order she drafted, or troubled by it? Does she stand by Rodriguez’s public justification, that he was protecting the lives of his operatives, or his private one, documented in declassified emails, that the tapes would make him and his group “look terrible”? Above all, if the torture program was so valuable and necessary, why destroy the tapes at all?

Soufan also reiterates (as mentioned above) that “many professionals within the agency courageously chose to stand up against the enhanced techniques, walking away from black sites in protest and registering a large number of complaints.” Haspel was a willing participant and leader in the effort. Soufan also notes that the CIA used the intelligence he obtained, not via torture, and lied to Congress about it, pretending that it came about via its failed and morally repulsive torture program.

Plenty of information about Haspel’s involvement in both the torture program and the cover-up is still classified — leading at least some Senators to call for declassifying that information. Rand Paul has been the most vocal opponent to the appointment of Haspel:

Paul said he is opposing Haspel due to her involvement in the enhanced interrogation program during the George W. Bush administration. He said she showed “joyful glee at someone who is being tortured.”

“I find it just amazing that anyone would consider having this woman at the head of the CIA,” Paul said.

This is a principled stand. And yet, he is being attacked for it. The most incredible attack came from Rep. Liz Chaney (whose father helped set up and defend the torture program), who directly claimed that Rand Paul questioning whether or not we want a torturer to lead the CIA was “defending and sympathizing with terrorists.”

Let the insanity of that statement sink in for a moment. Here you have a member of Congress claiming that a Senator is “defending and sympathizing with terrorists” for merely suggesting that we shouldn’t support having someone who ran the CIA torture program as the next CIA director. Even if you believe — against all evidence, and against basic human decency — that torture is a good thing to use against anyone, how is it possibly “sympathizing with terrorists” to suggest that such a person is not qualified to be CIA director? Does Cheney also believe that Soufan, the former FBI agent who actually got intelligence out of terrorists without torturing them is also “defending and sympathizing with terrorists” in stating:

And yet today, the candidate for the top job at the agency is someone who willingly participated in both the program and the attempted cover-up. We need to consider what kind of message this sends to people in the intelligence community and the wider government. Do things right, stand up for American values, and you will be ignored. Flout them, and you will be rewarded.

What kind of sick mind is so supportive of torture that she would argue that merely questioning whether this person should head the CIA is somehow siding with the terrorists? Politicians make really stupid statements all the time, but Liz Cheney’s statement is positively jaw dropping in its blind obedience to what many have argued are war crimes by the US government. This kind of logic is the kind of logic that leads to very dangerous outcomes. It’s beyond Machiavellian. It is not even that the ends justify the means (which would be bad enough), because the ends did not justify the means with the CIA’s torture program. It’s that merely questioning the means somehow makes you sympathetic to the cause of terrorists. That’s a recipe for disaster. It allows no questioning. It allows no dissent. It allows no conscience. It is pure authoritarian evil.

Filed Under: , , , , , , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “As Trump Nominates Torture Boss To Head CIA, Congresswoman Suggests It's Sympathizing With Terrorists To Question Her Appointment”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Anonymous Coward says:

Why I don't fully support Trump: because he may be one of Them.

OR, controlled by Them is the more current notion among Those. — In all the most important matters of the Warfare State. He’s allowed some nationalism in stopping immigration, which is big point with Those and me too…

On other hand, I’ll believe Masnick is against torture AFTER he fully condemns the illegal war-crime invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, as I do. Oh, and condemns Israel for the open-air prison of the native Palestinians, complete with the country-long wall, and retaliating for a few “rockets” (that may be false flag attack) with bulldozers, helicopter gunships, and F-16s, murdering 300 Palestinians to every Israel.

Anyhoo, Masnick is just using this topic as a wedge.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Why I don't fully support Trump: because he may be one of Them.

You do realize you’re using the same logic you’re condemning, don’t you?

Those who don’t agree with everything you say aren’t necessarily against everything you say. And there’s always the possibility that some of what you believe is wrong, without invalidating your entire ideology.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Why I don't fully support Trump: because he may be one of Them.

I’ll never believe you’re against torture and the war-crime invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq until AFTER you fully condemn the Holocaust of the Nazis, the the atrocities of Stalin against his people, and 7 other atrocities that I won’t tell you what they are but will still hold to condemning them before I believe you about the other things.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Why I don't fully support Trump: because he may be one of Them.

Why does he have to condemn on the other things? Personally I am against the US torture. We need to fix our problems before we cause more in other countries. Palistine/Israel, is in an entirely different league when it comes to problems. It is easy to condemn torture since it is well researched that torture doesn’t work. As for condemning Israel, don’t think I would. Far to complicated to say for certain and the biggest contributor to many of those problems was Hamas not Israel. Israel only reacted to decisions made by Hamas.

Anonymous Coward says:

The Reagan Principle

Gina Haspel is the perfect person for the job. With plenty of blood on her hands and many skeletons in the closet, she’ll be a loyal, obedient officer highly unlikely to ever turn against Trump. Plus, her presence will serve as a lightning rod in an ever-present storm.

It’s a wonder that Trump didn’t get many more such people to staff his administration.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: CIA is evil | Liz Cheney a dope

….skip the current personalities — CIA has been a really nasty, evil entity under a dozen Presidents. CIA should not exist ever.

Trump and Liz Cheney are fools on this issue but they are just following the despicable path of all our other modern rulers in WashingtonDC.

Name a President, Congressperson, or SCOTUS Justice who objects to the CIA existence. They are all guilty of its deeds.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: The Reagan Principle

That’s not what the quote means.

Spock is noting that some adversarial relationships persist for so long and are so strongly supported that only someone with a track record of being vociferously belligerent has the gravitas to seek reconciliation. Anyone less would fail because their opponent would exploit their perceived weakness and their own people would consider them a sell-out.

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: The Reagan Principle

It was about how when even the leader who opposed reconciliation now backs it, that reconciliation has a chance of happening.

It had nothing to do with opponents exploiting perceived weakness. That’s the sort of nonsense Republicans used to back claims that Obama “would go on an international apology tour,” and later “went on an international apology tour”, without any such apology tour ever taking place.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Is the new job the same as the old job?

If Mike Pompeo is actually confirmed by the Senate as the new Secretary of State, when will the first accusation of his acting as a Secretary of State or as a CIA director be leveled? Whether that charge is true or not, it will be leveled at least in order to give some leverage to the ones making it.

If Gina Haspel is actually confirmed by the Senate as the new CIA director, how many of our current allies will take that as a direct confirmation of this countries endorsement of torture, and lose all remaining respect for our foreign policy?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Is the new job the same as the old job?

I think most allies ar brazing for the current insanity and using the current eccentrisity to create other friends and play a longer game than Trump has ever understood. It is not all bad, for USA is getting better friends with several cleptocrats. But in the end, tipping the scales to percieve EU as an enemy is not in long-term US interests. He is strenghtening Chinas dictator by proxy, which is not what he seems to intend.

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Re: Is the new job the same as the old job?

Soft power: The ability to attract and co-opt, rather than by coercion (hard power, using force or money) as a means of persuasion. Soft power is the ability to shape the preferences of others through appeal and attraction. A defining feature of soft power is that it is noncoercive; the currency of soft power is culture, political values, and foreign policies.

Trump has done everything possible to destroy US soft power except align himself with Nazis and order big military parades.


Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Is the new job the same as the old job?

The only “respect” any “allies” have for the US now is the kind that crime syndicate figures purport to have for each other. This is not respect, it’s a kind of unfriendly tolerance based entirely on perceived mutual benefit. But even this is quickly running out.

Anonymous Coward says:

Apparently it is a requirement that Congress confirm new appointments to positions in government, including that of CIA director. One would think that as part of that approval process congress would ask questions of the potential employee.

So, they are saying that Congress should not be doing their sworn duties as congressional members? Isn’t that treason? Conspiracy to commit treason? Funny how they so easily toss such terminology around but freak the hell out when it is turned back in their direction.

Qwertygiy says:

Re: Re:

The US definition of treason is extraordinarily strict compared to the classical definition. Basically, you have to have been shown to be directly and specifically helping an enemy of the state, or to have levied war against the United States.

Benedict Arnold: treason. He planned to hand over a fort to a country we were at war with.

John Brown: treason. His attack upon a federal ammunition depot at Harper’s Ferry was intended to be the start of an armed uprising against the United States.

Edward Snowden: not treason. While he disclosed government secrets, allowing Russia and North Korea and ISIS to read them, he did not specifically and directly aid them. Everyone could read them. He didn’t hand it over to the enemies directly or specifically.

Bradley/Chelsea Manning: not treason. While she disclosed government secrets to WikiLeaks, WikiLeaks is not an enemy of the state, and once again, everyone was able to access them from there on out, not just the “bad guys”.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Are you serious? Edward Snowden was handing the information over to a fucking foreign newspaper, traitor-girl and funneled the leak through flagships of fake news in America, Washington Post and New York Times. Those are without a doubt enemies of the state and should be forced to see a true patriot like Haspel at work before feeling it on their own body!

The Wanderer (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Foreign != enemy.

In this case, the "foreign" country with which the newspaper was affiliated is one of the USA’s longest-standing and closest allies. (And is a partner in the allegedly-abusive practices which were being disclosed, so a newspaper in that country has just about as much legitimate reason to be interested as one in the USA would.)

As you yourself acknowledge, he also gave the information to multiple US newspapers – including the one best-known for publishing classified information against the government’s will. And even then, there are still documents which haven’t been published – and probably never will be – because these organizations have enough journalistic integrity to not publish information just because it would be sensational, at least not when that would clearly do more harm than good.

Can you suggest how he should have gone about blowing the whistle on abuses by the US government, when the people complicit in those abuses include the members of the oversight chain all the way up to the top?

Blowing the whistle on wrongdoing means reporting it to the lowest level which you can be sure isn’t complicit in the wrongdoing. In the case of the Snowden leaks, all the oversight bodies – up through Congress itself – appeared to be complicit in covering up the wrongdoing; that meant that the only level he could be sure wasn’t complicit was the public itself.

Can you suggest any way of reporting the wrongdoing to the American public (as the ultimate supervisory authority in this country) which would not also expose it to the public in other countries? Preferably one which would minimize the risk of actually dangerous/sensitive information (such as the identities of agents, or the how-to details of cracking methods) being exposed?

From what I can see, Snowden appears to have chosen the least bad of the options available for achieving the intended goal.

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

What Snowden leaked was largely about American intelligence services spying on Americans. Including showing that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper had just lied to Congress about it.

He leaked information to America’s enemies if you consider American citizens to be America’s enemies.

Of the two, Snowden and Clapper, whose actions present the greatest threat to American freedom?

Anonymous Coward says:

Torture is antithetical to American values. The minute we started extraordinary rendition in the name of protecting Americans from terrorists, we lost the war. We traded freedom for security and got neither.

The only way Gina Haspel is qualified to serve is if she completely renounces her actions and the actions of the U.S. government in approving torture of detainees and vows that it will not happen under her watch.

Otherwise, her appointment is a tacit approval of her activities when we all now know that it was wrong and, even if you don’t see how wrong it was, it proved to be completely useless for intelligence gathering.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“The only way Gina Haspel is qualified to serve is if she completely renounces her actions and the actions of the U.S. government in approving torture of detainees and vows that it will not happen under her watch.”

You would accept her word, or would she just pull a Clapper?

Gina Haspel is in no way qualified to lead an agency, and her previous behavior is the prime indicator.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Torture and American Values

Torture, by which I mean the CIA Extrajudicial Detention and Interrogation Program is an indictment of American Values, especially given many Americans are still glad not just to condone torture but to justify and demand the continuation of US policies featuring torture.

Our glorious President has stated as much duing campaining, on his watch, torture will continue. Waterboarding is just the beginning.

American Values include torture. We can strive to change this. We can claim that we don’t want torture to be an American value. We can decree that the contemporary United States does not represent the sort of nation its public might want to serve or live in. But presently, this is where we are. Presently, torture is as rightful a legacy of the US as peanut butter and apple pie.

And to be fair, we’ve not exactly ever given equality or liberty a fair shake, and the ideology of American Exceptionalism looks a lot like the ideology of the Islamic State, and yet we gladly preach it to our kids in public school, revising history to serve the message. So the US is long due for a makeover.

A sober dose of self awareness is long overdue in the states. We cannot, as Trump promises, just declare our way to greatness. We have to earn it by admitting where we’ve gone wrong and setting our course right.

It means we have to admit all the torture done in the name of the US, and then never do it again, and count the years. But until then, the US is exactly the monster her enemies have made her out to be.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Nice projection there

I’m pretty sure that defending torture is much more likely to aid terrorists than objecting to the appointment of someone who fully supports the practice.

After all, ‘the USG will torture your family if they think you’re working for us, or even if they think you have some intel’ would make for a great recruitment pitch and/or way to get people furious with the USG, and if someone knows that they face torture if they are captured they are much more likely to fight to the death, which can lead to greater casualties on both sides.

If anyone is supporting terrorists it’s those engaged in the practice of torture, and those defending the practice, including Liz Cheney.

Personanongrata says:

Richard Bruce Cheney is a Draft Dodging War Criminal

Whats that stuck on the bottom of your shoe?

Why it is a piece of cheney (both Liz and Richard).

This just in Liz your father is a war criminal and terrorist who is reponsible for the death and torture of untold numbers of human beings in order to feed his chicken hawk draft dodging ego and bank account.

Personanongrata says:

Gina Haspel is a War Criminal

In a nation with a functioning justice system Gina Haspel, along with everyone else involved, would have been indicted, been to trial, charged and sentenced for the crime of aiding and abetting torture a decade ago.

But, alas we do not live in a nation with a functioning justice system.

Fortunately a charge of torture is based on the principle of universal jurisdiction and other nations willing to uphold the law may arrest and hold trials of persons so charged.

It is blatantly obvious that US DoJ (HAHA) has completely forsworn it’s responsibilities and has refused to indict/prosecute any persons involved in the US governments officially sanctioned torture program.

The italicize/bold text below was excerpted from a report found at the website titled Germany: CIA deputy Gina Haspel must face arrest on travelling to Europe :

ECCHR is calling on the German Federal Public Prosecutor to investigate Haspel, Frances B., Tenet, Rumsfeld and the other accused, to secure evidence and to work towards issuing arrest warrants. This would allow German authorities to react swiftly should any of the suspects travel to Europe, instead of waiting until such a time to begin complex investigations and legal assessments.

ECCHR General Secretary Kaleck, together with the US Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), submitted criminal complaints against Tenet and Rumsfeld in Germany in 2004 and 2006 and against George Bush in Switzerland in 2011. ECCHR is also involved in proceedings in Belgium, France and Spain concerning detention at Guantánamo.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...