Human rights advocates are expressing outrage on Tuesday after President Donald Trump nominated deputy director Gina Haspel—"an actual torturer"—to be the next CIA director despite her leading role in running an agency black site where detainees were systematically and gruesomely abused.
Gina Haspel was a central figure in one of the most illegal and shameful chapters in modern American history.https://t.co/zdqMnMHKGF
— ACLU (@ACLU) March 13, 2018
"This appointment should be a warning to allies of the U.S. in the U.K., Europe, and around the world," declared Maya Foa, director of the London-based Reprieve. "Haspel was one of President Bush's torturers-in-chief and she is simply not fit to hold an office that requires, at its very heart, a commitment to uphold the values of the Constitution. This is another example of Donald Trump's backward-looking reliance on people and methods that have failed."
Several critics pointed to a profile published by the New Yorker last year—after Trump appointed her as deputy director—which detailed how, in the early 2000s, "Haspel was a senior official overseeing a top-secret CIA 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."
Another mind-boggling paragraph from this Dexter Filkins post from last year on the new CIA director. If Obama had allowed prosecutions over CIA torture, "people like Haspel, quite plausibly, could have gone to prison." Instead, she's going to run the CIA. https://t.co/MKDRJGf2hk pic.twitter.com/2avwLewIe3
— Josh Nathan-Kazis (@joshnathankazis) March 13, 2018
Haspel, the New York Times reports, "played a direct role in the CIA's 'extraordinary rendition program,' under which captured militants were handed to foreign governments and held at secret facilities, where they were tortured by agency personnel."
A few things about Gina Haspel:
- We were wrong: She didn't oversee torture of Abu Zubaydah.
- She did oversee CIA dark prison, and torture of another detainee.
- She was involved in destroying tapes of torture.https://t.co/j0Hpl6czDr pic.twitter.com/8qMll9wx14
— Eric Umansky (@ericuman) March 16, 2018
Haspel also reportedly played a role in the destruction of video evidence that depicted U.S. agents torturing detainees at the CIA's secret prisons. In 2005, as the Times notes, "Haspel was serving at CIA headquarters, and it was her name that was on the cable carrying the destruction orders."
The new CIA director was a key part of the torture program and its illegal cover-up. Her name was on the Top Secret order demanding the destruction of tapes to prevent them being seen by Congress. Incredible. https://t.co/HjVHCPCbpo https://t.co/VamIGa1A8w
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) March 13, 2018
"The concealment of those interrogation tapes, which violated multiple court orders as well as the demands of the 9/11 commission and the advice of White House lawyers, was condemned as 'obstruction' by commission chairs Lee Hamilton and Thomas Keane," Glenn Greenwald pointed out at The Intercept. "A special prosecutor and grand jury investigated those actions but ultimately chose not to prosecute."
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Greenwald did not express surprise at Haspel's appointment, instead asserting that "this isn't a radical departure for CIA," considering the agency's pro-torture history.
This isn't a radical departure for CIA. After all, Haspel did this under George Tenet. At the time, John Brennan - who became Obama's CIA director - was an advocate of rendition & other torture methods. And Pompeo was fine with black sites. Still notable: she's an actual torturer
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) March 13, 2018
Some critics who weighed in on the appointment noted that last year, the Berlin-based European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights filed a legal intervention with German authorities, hoping to obtain an arrest warrant for Haspel, based on her role in facilitating and attempting to conceal torture at CIA black sites.
On new #CIA director Gina #Haspel: In 2017 @ECCHRBerlin called on Germany's Public Prosecutor to issue arrest warrant against Haspel bc she oversaw #torture https://t.co/Q99fsAWHnb; She'd fall within #ICC Afghanistan-plus investigation of US #CIA torture https://t.co/RB0KJnmk4b
— Katherine Gallagher (@katherga1) March 13, 2018
— Alex Moorehead (@apmoorehead) March 13, 2018
The president, meanwhile, expressed excitement over his nomination of Haspel.
"Gina, by the way, who I know very well, who I've worked very closely with, will be the first woman director of the CIA," Trump said Tuesday. "She's an outstanding person."
To officially take over the agency, Haspel will need to undergo a confirmation hearing with the U.S. Senate, where she'll likely face some tough questions. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who was critical of Haspel's appointment as deputy director, released a statement opposing her new appointment on Tuesday:
Wyden out with a statement on Haspel’s nomination. pic.twitter.com/6YRZEEzis6
— Joshua Eaton (@joshua_eaton) March 13, 2018
Update: This story has been updated following ProPublica's retraction of details about the torture of detainee Abu Zubaydah from a 2017 report.