Despite torture allegations, Gina Haspel was confirmed as the CIAdirector after six Democrats, including the vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee Sen. Mark Warner, and most Republicans showed support for the Trump-backed nominee.
However, The Intercept has revealed the harrowing details of Haspel’s torture and its after-effects, according to a U.S. Navy reserve doctor, who examined a high profile prisoner.
In an email obtained by The Intercept, Sondra Crosby, a professor of public health at Boston University, privately tried to convince Warner to not confirm Haspel.
“I have evaluated Mr. Abdal Rahim al-Nashiri, as well as close to 20 other men who were tortured” in U.S. custody, including several who were tortured “as part of the CIA’s RDI [Rendition, Detention, and Interrogation] program. I am one of the only health professionals he has ever talked to about his torture, its effects, and his ongoing suffering,” Crosby wrote to Warner’s legislative director.
“He is irreversibly damaged by torture that was unusually cruel and designed to break him. In my over 20 years of experience treating torture victims from around the world, including Syria, Iraq, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mr. al-Nashiri presents as one of the most severely traumatized individuals I have ever seen,” she continued.
Al-Nashiri, who is currently being held at the Guantánamo Bay prison, was arrested from Dubai in 2002 and later transferred to the Cat’s Eye Prison in Thailand, which was run by Haspel at the time.
He was a suspect in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole off the coast of Yemen.
Haspel’s nomination came after she sent a letter that indicated her changed stance on the use of torture without actually condemning or showing remorse for the suffering it caused.
“While I won’t condemn those that made these hard calls, and I have noted the valuable intelligence collected, the program ultimately did damage to our officers and our standing in the world,” Haspel wrote. “With the benefit of hindsight and my experience as a senior agency leader, the enhanced interrogation program is not one the CIA should have undertaken.”
However, during her confirmation hearing Haspel simply refused to call torture techniques “immoral.”
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., a member of the Intelligence Committee, called out Haspel for waiting till the eve of her confirmation to show “remorse” for the torture implicated on detainees.
“It took her 16 years and the eve of a vote on her confirmation to get even this modest statement, and again, she didn’t say she had any regrets other than it offended some people,” said Wyden.
“I urge Senator Warner to oppose Ms. Haspel, who did not have the courage or leadership to oppose the RDI program,” wrote Crosby.
In her letter Crosby also stated known acts of tortures committed against Al-Nashiri, which included:
- Mock execution using a drill and gun while standing hooded and naked
- Anal rape through rectal feeding
- Threatened his mother would be sexually assaulted
- Lifted off the ground through his arms while they were tied behind his back (which resulted in possible dislocation of shoulders.)
Crosby also stated these are only a few of the torture techniques used against detainees while others remained classified.
However, Crosby cleared that her statements on torture and personal work with victims did not represent the Navy or the Department of Defense.
According to The Intercept, in a briefing to Senate Intelligence Committee staffers, Crosby detailed the torture endured by Al-Nashiri, stating unauthorized techniques were used along with authorized interrogation techniques.
She also cited psychologist James Mitchell, who said he witnessed an interrogator “dousing Al-Nashiri with cold water while using a stiff, bristled brush to scrub his ass and balls and then his mouth and then blowing cigar smoke in his face until he became nauseous.”
During the Briefing Crosby stated the CIA’s “methodology consisted of strategic assaults — multiple traumas inflicted simultaneously, as well as consecutively, in a manner designed to instill terror and maximize harm in the prisoners.” The interrogation program, she stated, showed that “torture is not just a crime of physical violence, but a way of destroying someone’s humanity.” Crosby added: “It is important to note that the barbarity of the torture methods used were shrouded and concealed in sterile euphemisms.”
“The terror of being kept naked in pitch-black, shackled to the ceiling while music blared, covered in urine and feces while insects crawled on their bodies, in dank cells that were freezing cold or unbearably hot. The horrific conditions in between interrogations were in some cases as bad as the interrogations. These torture methods were inflicted for hours and days, for weeks at a time, over the course of years. The men became disoriented with no sense of when the abuse would stop. Some of the men wished for death,” she continued detailing the horror faced by prisoners while under Haspel’s leadership.
Despite the harrowing details of the torture that Haspel’s tenure oversaw, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell fast-tracked Haspel’s confirmation vote in an executive session.
Wyden blasted CIA’s unprecedented campaign to get Haspel approved. (She also received huge backing from President Donald Trump himself.)
“Today we’re seeing what amounts to a secret confirmation,” Wyden said. “I’m worried that if you have a proceeding like this, a nominee confirmed this way with zero meaningful declassification, this is not going to be the last secret confirmation. You will see other nominees coming up, and their record will be covered up as well.”
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