ProPublica's Reporting Error Shows Why The Government Must Declassify Details Of Gina Haspel's Role In CIA Torture
from the please-explain dept
Last week, we wrote a bit about Donald Trump’s nominee to head the CIA, Gina Haspel. That post highlighted a bunch of reporting about Haspel’s role in running a CIA blacksite in Thailand that was a key spot in the CIA’s torture program. Soon after we published it, ProPublica retracted and corrected an earlier piece — on which much of the reporting about Haspel’s connection to torture relied on. Apparently, ProPublica was wrong on the date at which Haspel started at the site, meaning that she took over soon after the most famous torture victim, Abu Zaubaydah, was no longer being tortured. Thus earlier claims that she oversaw his inhumane, brutal, and war crimes-violating torture were incorrect. To some, this error, has been used to toss out all of the concerns and complaints about Haspel, even though reporters now agree that she did oversee the torture of at least one other prisoner at a time when other CIA employees were seeking to transfer out of the site out of disgust for what the CIA was doing.
However, what this incident should do is make it clear that the Senate should not move forward with Haspel’s nomination unless the details of her involvement is declassified. As Trevor Timm notes, ProPublica’s error was not due to problematic reporting, but was the inevitable result of the CIA hiding important information from the public.
In its report, ProPublica was forced to use a combination of heavily censored CIA and court documents and anonymous sources to piece together what happened over a decade ago in the secret CIA prison Haspel ran. Many of the documents were made public only after years of Freedom of Information Act fights brought by public interest groups, while many other documents on Haspel?s CIA tenure remain classified.
These types of unintentional mistakes would be almost entirely avoidable if journalists did not have to read between the lines of ridiculous government redactions meant to cover up crimes.
The most obvious example of this is the Senate?s 500-page summary of the torture report it released in 2014. How many times is Haspel named in the torture report? We have no idea. The redactions on the report completely obscured the names of all participants in the torture program, including the CIA personnel involved, as well as their partners in crime from authoritarian dictatorships like Libya, Egypt, and Syria.
At the time of the report?s release, advocates proposed that CIA personnel should at least be identified by pseudonyms so that the public could understand how many people were involved and if a particular person was responsible for more than others. That proposal was rejected as well.
Because of that, mistakes like the one ProPublica made are inevitable — because the CIA (and those involved in declassifying what little was released from the Senate’s CIA torture report) made it inevitable. Conveniently, this allows the CIA to discredit journalists who are working to report on these important issues.
So this should give even more weight to the demands of various human rights groups to declassify the details of Haspel’s involvement. There can be no legitimate national security interest in continuing to keep this information secret. The program was ended long ago. It’s been confirmed that Haspel ran the site and was part of the process to destroy the tapes of what happened. But there are more details that must be revealed.
Indeed, the Daily Beast claims that it has separate confirmation that Haspel actually was “in a position of responsibility” during the Zubadaydah interrogation, though she wasn’t present at the site. So it’s possible that even ProPublica’s “correction” is at least somewhat misleading. Which, again, is all the more reason to reveal to the public what actual authority and responsibility she had over the torture program.
And, as a side note, it’s worth remembering that former CIA officer, John Kiriakou, was sent to jail for revealing the existence of the torture program. And now the woman who appears to have had authority over at least some of it (as well as the cover-up) may get to lead the CIA? Shouldn’t our Senators at least demand a full public understanding of her role in all of it first?