President Donald Trump’s controversial pick to head the Central Intelligence Agency left senators frustrated with her lack of adequate response to questions about torture techniques used by the agency in the post-9/11 era to obtain information from suspected terrorists.
During her Senate confirmation hearing, Gina Haspel, whose nomination for CIA director sparked severe backlash, repeatedly refused to answer Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris about the morality of her “enhanced” interrogation methods, which included waterboarding.
“One question I’ve not heard you answer is do you believe that the previous interrogation techniques were immoral?” Harris asked.
Haspel, unsurprisingly, tried to dodge the question — but the senator didn’t let her.
“It’s a yes or no answer,” she pressed. “Do you believe the previous interrogation techniques were immoral? I’m not asking do you believe they were legal, I’m asking do you believe they were immoral.”
The CIA nominee responded by saying she believed the agency did “extraordinary work to prevent another attack on this country.”
“Please answer yes or no,” Harris told her, again. “Do you believe in hindsight that those techniques were immoral?”
However, Haspel continued avoiding the question until Harris finally moved on — but not before reminding her she hadn’t received an answer.
Similarly, when Democratic Sen. Mark Warner asked Haspel to define her “moral code,” she insisted her “moral compass is strong.”
The 61-year-old intelligence officer has a long and disturbing history of supporting and using torture methods. In 2002, she ran a secret torture prison in Thailand where at least two al-Qaida suspects, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, were subjected to waterboarding and other inhumane techniques.
Haspel was also involved in the 2005 destruction of CIA videotapes, which featured several detainees in Thailand being tortured — including Zubaydah and al-Nashiri.
In 2013, she was named acting head of CIA National Clandestine Service, but was shifted from her position in a very short time because of her worrisome direct role in the interrogation operations.
Just recently, one of her other alleged victims detailed her traumatic story in a New York Times op-ed.
Fatima Boudchar and her husband Abdel Hakim Belhaj were on the run from Muammar Qaddafi’s regime when they were kidnapped in Thailand in 2004.
“I don’t understand why I was taken. I assume that the CIA went after my husband because he led an Islamist group that openly opposed the Qaddafi dictatorship,” Boudchar wrote. “But what did that have to do with me? I come from a small town in Morocco. I was not a political dissident. I’d never been to Libya until the CIA flew me there, and I never meant the United States any harm. I hardly thought about the United States until I was chained to the wall in the CIA black site.”
What’s even worse is that Boudchar, who said she went through extreme torture, was pregnant at the time.
“It was March 2004. During this nightmare — my detention and ‘rendition’ to Libya — I was pregnant. Shortly afterward, I gave birth,” she explained. “After what the CIA. did to me, my baby weighed four pounds.”
Boudchar believes the black site Haspel ran back in the day sounded like the one where she was tortured. She doesn’t remember how much time she spent there, but said she wanted to asked the acting CIA director if she knew of the abuse Boudchar suffered.
“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,” Boudchar continued. “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.”
Although Haspel said during the confirmation hearing the CIA won’t restart “such a detention and interrogation program,” her troubling past doesn’t make her a fitting candidate for the job — but when has Trump ever cared about that?
Thumbnail/Banner Credits: Reuters, Kevin Lamarque