Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Gina Haspel, who was in charge of a black site in Thailand where torture occurred and ordered the destruction of CIA tapes of the human rights violations, has been nominated to become director of the spy agency. (Photo: CIA / with overlay)

CIA Operative Gina Haspel Who Tortured, Ordered CIA Torture Tapes Destroyed, and Now Wants To Lead CIA Did Nothing Wrong, Says CIA

"Torture was illegal and immoral after 9/11, and it still is now," warn critics. And Gina Haspel "should never be allowed to work for the American people again."

Jon Queally

In what critics are calling a bald attempt to help Trump's controversial pick to lead the CIA get through a very difficult confirmation process, the CIA on Friday released a previously classifed memo in which Gina Haspel was "cleared" of any wrongdoing when she destroyed more than 90 videotapes of agency operatives torturing human beings.

According to the Associated Press, which first reported the story, the CIA on Friday "gave lawmakers a declassified memo Friday showing [Haspel] was cleared years ago of wrongdoing in the destruction of videotapes showing terror suspects being waterboarded after 9/11."

"It's completely unacceptable for the CIA to declassify only material that’s favorable to Gina Haspel while at the same time stonewalling our efforts to declassify all documents related her involvement in the torture program." —Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.)Written by then-acting deputy director of the CIA Mike Morrell, the eight-page memo, as the Washington Post reports, "does not weigh in on questions about Haspel’s involvement in the use of brutal interrogation methods at a black-site facility she supervised in Thailand. The memo does suggest, however, that there was general CIA support for the destruction of the tapes at the time Haspel drafted the 2005 memo, as officials were still heavily influenced by the experience of fallout from the 2004 scandal involving the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq."

Sen. Diane Feinstein, Democrat of California and member on the Senate Intelligence Committee, responded by saying that the CIA's memo should be seen for what it is: an attempt by the agency to release information that makes Haspel look good while continuing to block the release of information that might serve to incriminate her or hurt her chances for confirmation.

"It's completely unacceptable for the CIA to declassify only material that’s favorable to Gina Haspel while at the same time stonewalling our efforts to declassify all documents related her involvement in the torture program," Feinstein stated.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) indicated the memo will do nothing to lessen his concerns and actually raises new ones.

"Unfortunately, the Morell report is highly incomplete, raising far more questions about Ms. Haspel than it answers," Wyden said in a statement. "My concerns about Ms. Haspel are far broader than this episode or anything else that has appeared in the press."

Staff attorneys for the ACLU—which for years has been fighting for the CIA, the White House, and Congress to come clean about the government's torture program—said the agency's memo on Haspel is the very least of what should be disclosed:

Pointing to the Washington Post's version of the CIA memo regarding Haspel, journalist Glenn Greenwald responded by saying: "One of the most damaging aspects of the Trump presidency is how it's trained millions of newly politically engaged people to view the CIA and its leaders as noble and heroic. It's one of the most evil agencies on the planet."

This week, The Daily Beast's Spencer Ackerman reported on how former CIA lawyer John Rizzo says that Haspel did, in fact, run the agency's black site in Thailand.

Rizzo's 2014 book, reports Ackerman, "indicated that Haspel was responsible for the incommunicado detention and torture not of two men, but of dozens, potentially. Former intelligence officials interviewed by The Daily Beast have portrayed Haspel’s experience similarly."

While human rights groups and progressives have been unified in the urgent effort to make sure Haspel's confirmation is defeated, even members of the national security establishment have been raising enormous concerns about Haspel.

"We can't have a public or private sector where we just say 'Well, I was just following orders.' Golly day! Do you want that person to be director of the CIA?" —General Charles Krulak (ret.)

"Try to get a job in a Fortune 500 company when you're known to have destroyed evidence," General Charles Krulak, a retired Marine Corps commandant and former member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told AP. "We can't have a public or private sector where we just say 'Well, I was just following orders.' Golly day! Do you want that person to be director of the CIA?"

And despite the best efforts by Trump allies and the CIA itself to get Haspel approved by the Senate, one unidentified former intelligence official critical of the CIA's torture program told Ackerman it would be a disaster.

"If Ms. Haspel is confirmed, it will send a terrible message to the world broadly, and to the officers of the CIA more superficially," the former official said. "The CIA, and its former officers, are pushing so hard for Ms. Haspel to be director because if she’s confirmed, it essentially exonerates her, the CIA and all of these former senior CIA officials from their involvement in or their defense of the torture program."

But the advovacy group Win Without War made a succinct moral argument by putting it this way: "Torture was illegal and immoral after 9/11, and it still is now. Haspel should never be allowed to work for the American people again."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

... We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Biden Drilling Report Blasted as 'Shocking Capitulation to the Needs of Corporate Polluters'

"Greenlighting more fossil fuel extraction, then pretending it's OK by nudging up royalty rates, is like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic," said one campaigner.

Jessica Corbett ·


UNESCO Members Adopt First Global AI Ethics Agreement 'To Benefit Humanity'

"We're at a critical juncture in history," said Ethics in Tech founder Vahid Razavi. "We need as humans to come together and decide what is the best course of action to take with these technologies before they surpass us in their abilities."

Brett Wilkins ·


Progressive US Lawmakers Mark Black Friday With Calls to Pass the PRO Act

"The right to organize, fight for better working conditions, and fair pay must always be protected."

Jessica Corbett ·


'We Are Fighting Back': Global Black Friday Strikes and Protests Seek to #MakeAmazonPay

"We are workers and activists divided by geography and our role in the global economy but united in our commitment to Make Amazon Pay fair wages, its taxes, and for its impact on the planet."

Kenny Stancil ·


'It Was Entirely Avoidable': Rich Countries Blamed as New Covid Variant Sparks Global Alarm

"Allowing new variants to emerge and spread, 13 months into the vaccine era, is a policy choice by the rich world."

Jake Johnson ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo