With Gina Haspel, President Donald Trump's pick to head the CIA and known participant in the agency's post-9/11 torture program, testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday, some of the people abused by the agency are doing what they can to make their voices heard.
Fatima Boudchar, a woman who survived CIA detention, rendition, and torture, has a few questions for nominee Gina Haspel: "Did you know about my abduction and abuse? Were you involved with it? What will you say if Trump asks you to do that again?" https://t.co/vVXrJbj6I7
— Laila Lalami (@LailaLalami) May 9, 2018
Fatima Boudchar wrote for the New York Times opinion section on Tuesday that "the worst torture of my life...was done in Thailand at the hands of the C.I.A." in March of 2004. She continued:
During this nightmare—my detention and "rendition" to Libya—I was pregnant. Shortly afterward, I gave birth. After what the C.I.A. did to me, my baby weighed four pounds...
I have no idea how long I was in the Thai secret prison because no one would let me sleep. The cell was white and stark, with nothing in it but a camera and hooks on the wall. The masked abductors were waiting. I was terrified. They chained me to the hooks. Because I was midway through my pregnancy, I could barely move or sit.
Some of what they did to me in that prison was so awful I can't talk about it. They hit me in the abdomen just where the baby was. To move me, they bound me to a stretcher from head to toe, like a mummy. I was sure I would shortly be killed.
Noting that Haspel ran a CIA black site in Thailand in the early 2000s—about which lawmakers may demand details on Wednesday—Boudchar said: "I know what I'd ask her if I got the chance. Did you know about my abduction and abuse? Were you involved with it? What will you say if President Trump asks you to do something like that again?"
Citing former officials, the Times reported in March that Haspel was the base chief at a CIA secret prison in Thailand from October to December of 2002, then "returned to the Counterterrorism Center outside Washington as an operations officer." She was later involved with the destruction of videotapes that showed CIA operatives torturing detainees.
Rather than offering up a detailed public record of Haspel's history with the agency, the CIA has launched what critics have called a "domestic propaganda campaign" that Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), in a letter (pdf) to Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats detailing his concerns about the campaign, noted "appear[s] to be without precedent in recent history."
The agency has released excerpts of Haspel's testimony ahead of the hearing. "Having served in that tumultuous time, I can offer you my personal commitment, clearly and without reservation, that under my leadership CIA will not restart such a detention and interrogation program," she plans to tell senators.
However, not everyone is convinced by her claim that she will not restart the torture program. Journalist Jeremy Scahill, who has repeatedly raised concerns about Haspel's torture record in recent weeks, tweeted Tuesday:
Whew. Well, that settles that. I'm convinced. https://t.co/xKm6GRLVaO
— jeremy scahill (@jeremyscahill) May 9, 2018
Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who was also tortured by agency operatives in the early 2000s, has reportedly "asked a military judge at Guantánamo Bay for permission to share six paragraphs of information about Ms. Haspel with the Senate Intelligence Committee." Mohammed (also known as KSM), alleged to be one of the primary planners of 9/11 attacks, was captured in March 2003 and held in CIA secret prisons in Afghanistan and Poland. The judge has not yet publicly issued a decision.
While it is not known whether Haspel was involved with Mohammed's torture, the Times notes that he "was subjected to the suffocation technique called waterboarding 183 times over 15 sessions, stripped naked, doused with water, slapped, slammed into a wall, given rectal rehydrations without medical need, shackled into painful stress positions, and sleep-deprived for about a week by being forced to stand with his hands chained above his head."
In addition to those who suffered directly at the hands of the CIA torture program, more than 100 former U.S. ambassadors issued a letter (pdf) to lawmakers just before Wednesday's hearing to denounce her nomination.
Though the letter acknowledges that much about Haspel's specific role in the agency's torture program remains unknown to the public, it stated, "What we do know, based on credible, and as yet uncontested reporting, leaves us of the view that she should be disqualified from holding cabinet rank."