Over the past several days, there has been an increasingly granular debate about the degree of Gina Haspel’s participation in the torturing of detainees at the CIA’s Thailand “black site,” with neocons going out of their way to try to defend the president’s choice to run the agency in the wake of Mike Pompeo’s departure for Foggy Bottom.
Some details may be disputed, but it remains true that Haspel ran a secret center in Thailand where prisoners were tortured.
There is no question that during her career, Haspel participated in and helped develop the program that our own government has labeled torture. Though there have been the typical suggestions that she was “simply following orders,” Glenn Carle, a former CIA interrogator, has described her as “one of the architects, designers, implementers and one of the top two managers of the [Enhanced Interrogation Techniques program] and a true believer, by all accounts, in the ‘Global War in Terror’ paradigm.”
This does not sound like someone who was simply “following orders.” This sounds like someone who was giving them, which I would argue is far worse.
Nor is it debatable that she was present in Thailand when Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri was waterboarded three times in late 2002.
Further, multiple accounts have discussed her involvement in destroying video documentation of the torture program. Think about that for a moment. She helped destroy the very evidence of this program, and people tell us we have no reason for concern?
Direct participation in the program itself would be disqualifying enough for me, but appointing someone who also helped push for destroying evidence of that program to run one of the most powerful organizations in the world should not be acceptable to Congress.
At the end of the day, does this sound like what you would want from someone in a position of incredible power-much of which is hidden from the public? Without hesitation, I say no.
Those who run our government have a duty to the American people to ensure that their organizations are free of corruption. We are a nation of laws, where transparency and accountability are supposed to be paramount.
I don’t always agree with my Arizona colleague, Sen. John McCain, but his December 2014 floor statement regarding the Senate Intelligence Committee’s torture report still rings true today. He said then:
Our enemies act without conscience. We must not. This executive summary of the Committee’s report makes clear that acting without conscience isn’t necessary, it isn’t even helpful, in winning this strange and long war we’re fighting. We should be grateful to have that truth affirmed.
Now, let us reassert the contrary proposition: that is it essential to our success in this war that we ask those who fight it for us to remember at all times that they are defending a sacred ideal of how nations should be governed and conduct their relations with others – even our enemies.
Unless Haspel’s tenure in charge of waterboarding is declassified, the exact details of her actions will be argued back and forth.
What is known is that Haspel participated in a program that was antithetical to the ideals of this country. She destroyed evidence in defiance of our ideals.
I simply do not believe she should hold the post to which she has been nominated.