Cables Show Trump's CIA Director Oversaw Disturbing Torture Under Bush

After Gina Haspel was confirmed as the CIA head, memos describing the torture she oversaw at a CIA black site in 2002 were finally released.

If anyone ever had any doubt President Donald Trump’s pick for CIA director was a real-life monster, the agency’s newly-released torture cables should be enough to confirm it.

CIA Director Gina Haspel was in charge of overseeing a CIA black site in Thailand in 2002, right as the United States readied to use false pretexts to invade Iraq.

As part of her work, Haspel would authorize brutal torture against al Qaeda suspects — not convicted criminals or terrorists.

After Trump nominated Haspel to run the CIA, the National Security Archive learned that there were cables Haspel wrote and authorized from her sting as a top torturer under President George W. Bush. So on April 16, 2018, the Archive filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request along with an expedited processing request for the documents.

Expedited processing got denied, as Haspel was serving as the acting director of the CIA at the time, and the cables were not released in time for activists to pressure the Senate to not confirm her.

The Archive then filed a lawsuit and won the right to release the heavily-redacted documents.

After looking at the memos, critics called it Haspel’s “torture journaling," noting that the explicit descriptions of torture, along with the nearly surreally poetic language used to describe it, make these documents sound beyond shocking.

The Archive’s director, Tom Blanton, confirmed that as the black site’s head, Haspel either wrote or authorized all cables, including the ones that outlined how agents tortured Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who was essentially left mentally scarred for life after the torture he experienced, and who remains locked away at Guantánamo Bay.

Richard Kammen, Nashiri's former attorney, said he hopes that the cables will help to finally unveil the whole truth about the interrogation, because “ultimately, the public will be horrified by the level of brutality employed by the CIA."

One of the released documents described the actions taken by an interrogator under Haspel’s command, using lyrical language to detail the scene, explaining he “strode, catlike, into the well-lit confines of the cell at 0902 hrs [redacted], deftly removed the subject’s black hood with a swipe, paused, and in a deep, measured voice said that subject – having ‘calmed down’ after his (staged) run-in with his hulking, heavily muscled guards the previous day – should reveal what subject had done to vex his guards to the point of rage.”

Another cable showed just how useless the techniques were, as they produced no relevant intelligence.

“[I]nterrogators told subject that he was going back into the big box, and that they were going to talk again about Walid and other things. Subject was told that he suffered unnecessarily today because he didn’t provide complete responses up front,” it read.

After overseeing the torturing of suspects with an array of physical abuse techniques, including waterboarding, Haspel oversaw the destruction of 92 videotapes of these proceedings, a fact she confirmed during her Senate hearings, adding that she supported the CIA’s 2005 decision.

The release of the tapes, she explained, would have posed a security risk to the officers (torturers), so the agency calculated that the blowback from the tapes being destroyed would be easier to handle.

As some critics pointed out, six Democrats helped to confirm Haspel, Sens. Mark Warner, Bill Nelson, Jeanne Shaheen, Heidi Heitkamp, Joe Manchin, and Joe Donnelly. With the cables now going public, critics wonder if the senators behind her confirmation will apologize after the truth about her work at the CIA black site in 2002 was made public.

Perhaps, now that the truth has finally been revealed, senators will understand the importance of having all relevant documents regarding Trump’s nominees released and reviewed before making a final decision.

As critics note, the next confirmation hearings will involve U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. While it is too late to block Haspel now, it isn’t too late to block the judge. And as we learned from Trump’s nominees thanks to the Haspel case, the president has no problem appointing immoral characters who obliterate due process for significant roles in his administration.

Banner and thumbnail image credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

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