We know that in the early 2000s, Gina Haspel’s CIA was rendering accused terrorists to unfathomable torture in Syria, as well as Egypt and Jordan. And we know that in 2005, Haspel herself was busy ordering the destruction of evidence of her involvement in the waterboarding of prisoners.
What we don’t know is if she was involved in sending Maher Arar, a Canadian engineer, to Syria, where he was tortured by Bashar Assad-the same Assad now condemned for gassing his own people; the same Assad the CIA has been trying to depose for the past six years.
Did Haspel participate or even order Arar and others to be sent to Syria to be tortured? We will likely never know: Haspel, whose nomination for director of the CIA is currently being considered by the Senate, refuses to declassify the dark underbelly of her involvement in extreme rendition and torture-by-proxy.
Jane Mayer recounted Arar’s story in 2005 after interviewing him for The New Yorker:
Ten hours after landing in Jordan, Arar … was driven to Syria, where interrogators … “just began beating on me.” They whipped his hands repeatedly with two-inch-thick electrical cables, and kept him in a windowless underground cell that he likened to a grave. “Not even animals could withstand it,” he said. Although he initially tried to assert his innocence, he eventually confessed to anything his tormentors wanted him to say. “You just give up, he said. “You become like an animal.”
A year later, in October, 2003, Arar was released without charges. … Imad Moustapha, the Syrian Ambassador in Washington, announced that his country had found no links between Arar and terrorism. Arar, it turned out, had been sent to Syria on orders from the U.S. government, under a secretive program known as “extraordinary rendition.” This program had been devised as a means of extraditing terrorism suspects from one foreign state to another for interrogation and prosecution. Critics contend that the unstated purpose of such renditions is to subject the suspects to aggressive methods of persuasion that are illegal in America-including torture.
Was Haspel simply a loyal dupe, unable to protest an accused man being sent to certain barbaric torture? Or was she an eager participant in this dark chapter in our history?
If she had any criticisms at the time, Haspel, who is currently the acting head of the CIA, has the power to declassify them. And yet all we’ve gotten are select records that don’t address her participation in extraordinary rendition.
Know this: That fact alone should be enough to cause the Senate to reject her nomination.