Tag Archives: CIA Black Sites

Reality Check: Will Haspel Stick to Her Word on Torture?

It has been a heated fight for the nomination of Gina Haspel as the new CIA director. Some have nicknamed her the “Queen of Torture.”

Haspel, now confirmed as our next CIA director, said in her bid to head the agency that the torture program shouldn’t have happened. But should we believe her?

Let’s give it a Reality Check.

Before CIA Director Gina Haspel was confirmed on Thursday, she had written a letter saying that the CIA should not have carried out the post- 9/11 torture and rendition program.

According to the letter, sent to Virginia Sen. Mark Warner and obtained by CNN, Haspel now says that the torture program, “is not one the CIA should have undertaken.”

Haspel went on to say that the program had “ultimately done damage” to CIA officers and the U.S.’s “standing in the world.”

But she still claimed that the U.S. has gathered valuable intelligence from the program.

Keep in mind, as I have told you before, Gina Haspel didn’t just oversee a black site prison. She helped to destroy evidence of the program she now says did damage to the U.S. standing in the world.

But this isn’t the first CIA director to be exposed for their support of the torture program, and then to claim their opinion has changed.

Former CIA Director John Brennan defended the usefulness of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation tactics after the CIA torture report was released.

In a 2014 press conference, Brennan stated that the CIA’s actions resulted in “useful” intelligence despite them being “abhorrent” and even exceeding what’s legal.

And yet, during his confirmation hearings in 2013, Brennan expressed doubts that the CIA enhanced interrogation program had resulted in valuable intelligence.

So once he was confirmed, he shed those doubts and concluded that the agency was in the right to torture.

What you need to know is that Haspel could do exactly what Brennan did once confirmed as the new head of the CIA – backtrack on comments in the confirmation hearing and stand firm with the agency’s torture and rendition actions.

Remember, during the hearings Haspel offered her “personal commitment” to not restart such a detention and interrogation program with the CIA.

Can we trust Haspel? NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden tweeted about Gina Haspel’s nomination to the CIA director position, saying, “If the congress confirms Gina Haspel, who admitted to participating in a torture program and personally writing the order to destroy evidence of that crime, is “qualified” to head the CIA, it says more about our government than it does about her.”

That’s Reality Check. Let’s talk about that, right now, on Facebook and Twitter.

Reality Check: Would Trump’s New CIA Director Reinstate Torture Program?

The next director of the CIA might be one of the most controversial picks ever.

Gina Haspel not only helped to oversee the CIA’s torture program, but may have also destroyed evidence in an effort to hide torture techniques. And one CIA whistleblower says Haspel and those around her “tortured for the sake of torture.”

Is this really the person who should run the Central Intelligence Agency?

Let’s give it a Reality Check you won’t get anywhere else.

Gina Haspel is making headlines as the newly nominated director of the Central Intelligence Agency. She’s been chosen to step in for outgoing CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who President Trump chose to become Secretary of State in place of outgoing Rex Tillerson.

Some of those headlines are for her being the first woman nominated to the top CIA post. But others are rightfully questioning her connections to the CIA’s failed torture program.

So who is Haspel?

Well, we know she’s been with the CIA since 1985 and was assigned to the Central European Division.

According to the New York Times, Haspel served “in Turkey and Central Asia, before ascending to station chief in New York, where she was posted when Osama bin Laden was killed and worked closely with the F.B.I. as the agencies combed through files taken from his compound.”

In her career, she’s also headed up the CIA station in London — twice — and served as the acting director of the CIA’s National Clandestine Service in 2013.

But what’s troubling is her role in torture, and destruction of evidence of torture, dating back to 2002.

In October 2002, Haspel was placed in charge of the CIA “black site” prison named “Cat’s Eye” in Thailand. She arrived after Al Qaeda terror suspect Abu Zubaydah was waterboarded and tortured at the cite.

But, under her watch, another Al Qaeda suspect, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, was waterboarded three times.

I’m sure you know what waterboarding is… it’s a torture technique that simulates a drowning sensation.

The CIA doesn’t like the word torture… instead, they call waterboarding one of 13 “enhanced interrogation techniques” used on detainees dating back to 2001.

Former CIA officer John Kiriakou, who blew the whistle on the agency’s torture practices and went to prison for it, knew Haspel personally. Kiriakou had this to say about her in an interview on Democracy Now.

After the “Cat’s Eye” black site was closed in December 2002, Haspel went to work in the CIA’s National Clandestine Service in Washington, D.C under former director Jose Rodriguez.

This is where Haspel’s background becomes even more troubling.

According to the New York Times, Haspel encouraged her bosses at the CIA in 2005 to destroy video recordings of “enhanced interrogation,” including the tapes of Zubaydah’s waterboarding. Her direct boss, the head of the agency’s Counterterrorism Center, ultimately signed the order to feed the 92 tapes into a shredder.

The videotapes were destroyed just as debates heated up around the globe as to whether these techniques were illegal under U.S. and international laws. And yet, no one was charged in the destruction of what may have been evidence of illegal activity.

At the time the public did not know the extent to which these techniques were being used by our government on suspected terrorists. Candidly, we still don’t, but we did get a glimpse of the CIA torture and rendition program, and its failures, in 2014.

Back in 2012, the Senate Committee on Intelligence voted 9-6 to approve a 6,000 page report on a study of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program.

Just 525 pages of the full report have been declassified since December 2014, but it’s enough to show how mismanaged and ineffective the enhanced interrogation or torture program was in protecting Americans.

Ultimately the report found that the CIA’s torture techniques conducted at black sites did not help the agency get the cooperation of detainees or result in any actionable intelligence.

We know from the report that these CIA black sites were hotbeds for torture. Torture, including stress positions to sleep deprivation to waterboarding.

So why would Trump appoint someone with extensive connections to a secret torture program that failed to protect Americans?

Because Trump believes that the torture program wasn’t “tough enough.” He explained on the campaign trail.

And in an interview with CBS News, Trump further explained that he would want waterboarding to be the “minimum” when fighting terrorism.

What you need to know is that President Trump’s effort to bring waterboarding back to the CIA —if it ever actually ended—might backfire, because he’s putting Gina Haspel in the hot seat.

You see, Haspel’s hearing presents the first time the Senate has had an opportunity to question, under oath, someone directly involved in the CIA torture program. But it’s not just the program the public needs to know more about.

It’s the decision to act and then to destroy evidence of those actions that Haspel and others must be held accountable for.

If no illegal acts were committed, why destroy the evidence?

Reality Check here: Among senior officials, Gina Haspel’s acts are likely not the most egregious in the CIA when it comes to torture. In fact, her actions to carry out the CIA’s torture program, and her actions to help hide evidence of that program, again, among senior officials, is likely not unique. What is unique, is that we know about it.

That’s Reality Check. Let’s talk about that, right now, on Twitter and Facebook.

Trump’s New CIA Director Gina Haspel Oversaw US Torture Program

Washington, D.C.— After announcing Tuesday that CIA Director Mike Pompeo had been selected to replace outgoing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, President Donald Trump named Deputy CIA Director Gina Haspel as his choice to become the intelligence agency’s new Director.

Haspel is intimately connected to one of the CIA’s most controversial programs in recent memory, as she was in charge of the U.S. torture of terror suspects. The newly named CIA director was reportedly involved in the torture and interrogation of two suspected members of al-Qaeda, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, while working as a clandestine officer in Thailand in 2002.

According to a report in The New Yorker:

From 2003 to 2005, Gina Haspel was a senior official overseeing a top-secret C.I.A. program that subjected dozens of suspected terrorists to savage interrogations, which included depriving them of sleep, squeezing them into coffins, and forcing water down their throats. In 2002, Haspel was among the C.I.A. officers present at the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, an Al Qaeda suspect who was tortured so brutally that at one point he appeared to be dead.

Not only did Haspel oversee the controversial torture program, but in 2005 she also took part in the coverup of the evidence in relation to the torture program by destroying recordings of the torture of Zubaydah and al-Nashiri at which she was present.

[RELATED: ACLU, Human Rights Watch Call for Criminal Investigation into CIA Torture Tactics]

Until 2009, CIA operatives were able to legally torture suspected terrorists in “black sites” across the world until then-President Barack Obama ended the practice via executive order. The secret CIA program, known as R.D.I.— rendition, detention, and interrogation— involved kidnapping terror suspects from across the world and delivering them to third party countries to be tortured.

John Sifton, a senior official at Human Rights Watch, said that Haspel’s extensive connection to the secret CIA program is significant.

“You are putting a person in a leadership position who was centrally involved in an illegal program,” Sifton told The New Yorker.

The promotion of Haspel is a reflection of Trump and Pompeo’s proclivity to accept torture as legitimate. Trump has previously stated that he would like to reinstate waterboarding, with Pompeo previously on record noting that he would consider reinstating it. Trump’s own Secretary of Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, told him that torture was ineffective, and that a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers would elicit more intelligence than torture.

Sen. Ron Wyden weighed in on the announcement, noting that the “government can no longer cover up disturbing facts from her past.”

“Ms. Haspel’s background makes her unsuitable to serve as CIA director,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said in a statement Tuesday. “Her nomination must include total transparency about this background, which I called for more than a year ago when she was appointed deputy director. If Ms. Haspel seeks to serve at the highest levels of U.S. intelligence, the government can no longer cover up disturbing facts from her past.”