This morning, the Senate Intelligence Committee held a confirmation hearing for Gina Haspel, President Donald Trump’s nominee to replace outgoing Central Intelligence Agency chief Mike Pompeo.
The choice of Haspel, a career spy, immediately prompted cries of outrage across the country due to her active role in the CIA’s illegal torture program during the Bush administration.
Under CIA Director George Tenet, the CIA constructed a number of secret “black site” prison complexes in numerous foreign nations without informing the host countries that they would be used to illegally detain and torture suspected “terrorists” without trial, leading to the deaths of two prisoners.
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Haspel was in charge of a CIA black site camp in Thailand, where at least one prisoner was subjected to waterboarding torture, and personally ordered the destruction of the evidence of these crimes against humanity and international law.
Fatima Boudchar, a Moroccan woman who was illegally detained by the CIA simply because her husband was involved in an anti-Qaddafi Islamist group in Libya, was likely taken to Haspel’s black site in Thailand, where she was tortured, even though she was pregnant. Her child was only four pounds when they were born.
During today’s hearing, Haspel attempted to argue that she had destroyed the tapes of the torture in order to protect the identities of the agents conducting the torture. When pressed as to why she hadn’t ordered the tapes digitally altered to blur out the faces and preserved a digital, “sanitized” version, she weakly punted, mumbling “I’m simply not a technical person.”
Asked why the CIA needed to destroy videotapes of brutal interrogation and torture without preserving an edited digital copy, CIA Director nominee Gina Haspel replied, “Senator, I’m just not a technical person.” pic.twitter.com/0ThewF3mzN
— Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) May 9, 2018
Senator Marin Heinrich (D-NM) was not happy with this answer. Indeed, it does not inspire confidence to hear the proposed nominee for an agency that oversees $15 billion worth of spying operations, death squads, and God only knows what else to say that she is not a “technical person.”
Haspel went on to promise that she would not restart the torture program, even if ordered to by President Trump, but her words ring hollow with her declaration that she doesn’t believe that Trump would tell her to do so.
Trump’s own words make it clear that she either is deliberately whitewashing the president or is stunningly uninformed about the man she is about to work for.
TRUMP in 2016: "Torture works, okay, folks? I have these guys, 'torture doesn't work.' Believe me, it works, okay? And waterboarding is your minor form. Some people say it's not actually torture. Let's assume it is. Waterboarding, absolutely fine. We should go much stronger." pic.twitter.com/znF4odUm7Y
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) May 9, 2018
The Central Intelligence Agency is responsible for some of the worst excesses in America’s short but brutal history; the amount of human suffering caused by the coups they supported, the democratically elected socialist governments they toppled, the right-wing death squads they armed, and their illegal torture program cannot be quantified.
The United States Senate cannot confirm a woman who has shown she is willing to commit unforgivable crimes just because she was “following orders.” Our nation’s most dangerous intelligence agency requires a person with a demonstrated ethical backbone and the moral willpower to resist the President’s cruelest impulses – and Gina Haspel has proven she is not that person.