Open thread for night owls: The No. 2 at the CIA, a torturer, could soon be No. 1 if Senate agrees

Deputy Director of the CIA Gina Haspel.

Pr*sident Donald Trump reportedly has chosen Gina Haspel, the deputy chief of the Central Intelligence Agency, to replace Mike Pompeo, with whom Trump wants to replace Rex Tillerson at the State Department. Haspel has held several senior leadership positions at CIA, including deputy director of the National Clandestine Service, deputy director of the National Clandestine Service for Foreign Intelligence and Covert Action, and chief of staff for the Director of the National Clandestine Service.

She would, of course, be the first female director of the agency. She would not be the first director to have engaged in, or approved, or ordered torture. The agency has a history of doing that. And it has trained others, and even published a manual in the 1980s for the military of Central American nations and the contra terrorists of Nicaragua.

As intrepid reporter Raymond Bonner wrote a year ago, Haspel in 2002 not only oversaw the torture in a secret CIA prison in Thailand of a Palestinian mistakenly thought to be a top guy in al Qaida, she also advocated destroying tapes documenting that torture. The tapes were destroyed in 2005.

Here’s Bonner writing at ProPublica in February 2017:

As the CIA’s video cameras rolled, security guards shackled Abu Zubaydah to a gurney and interrogators poured water over his mouth and nose until he began to suffocate. They slammed him against a wall, confined him for hours in a coffin-like box, and deprived him of sleep.

The 31-year-old Zubaydah begged for mercy, saying that he knew nothing about the terror group’s future plans. The CIA official in charge, known in agency lingo as the “chief of base,” mocked his complaints, accusing Zubaydah of faking symptoms of psychological breakdown. The torture continued.


When questions began to swirl about the Bush administration’s use of the “black sites,” and program of “enhanced interrogation,” the chief of base began pushing to have the tapes destroyed. She accomplished her mission years later when she rose to a senior position at CIA headquarters and drafted an order to destroy the evidence, which was still locked in a CIA safe at the American embassy in Thailand. Her boss, the head of the agency’s counterterrorism center, signed the order to feed the 92 tapes into a giant shredder.

By then, it was clear that CIA analysts were wrong when they had identified Zubaydah as the number three or four in al-Qaida after Osama bin Laden. The waterboarding failed to elicit valuable intelligence not because he was holding back, but because he was not a member of al-Qaida, and had no knowledge of any plots against the United States.

Haspel’s supporters say she was just following orders, a favorite excuse of torturers and other war criminals.

You can read the CIA’s cables about the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah here.

Abu Zubaydah—who was water-boarded 83 times and tortured in other ways—‘lost” an eye while in CIA custody at one of its various secret prisons over a four-and-a-half-year period. He has been held at the U.S. military prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, for 12 years. The prison was specifically established there for the same reasons as the CIA’s network of black sites—to subvert U.S. law. Abu Zubaydah was counted during the Obama administration as one of the prisoners viewed as too innocent to charge but too dangerous to release. 

Luis Martinez at ABC writes:

Christopher Anders, the deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington legislative office, demanded that the CIA declassify and release “every aspect of Haspel’s torture record” before considering the nomination.

“Gina Haspel was a central figure in one of the most illegal and shameful chapters in modern American history,” said Ander. “She was up to her eyeballs in torture, both in running a secret torture prison in Thailand and carrying out an order to cover up torture crimes by destroying videotapes.



“Under torture you are as if under the dominion of those grasses that produce visions. Everything you have heard told, everything you have read returns to your mind, as if you were being transported, not toward heaven, but toward hell. Under torture you say not only what the inquisitor wants, but also what you imagine might please him, because a bond (this, truly, diabolical) is established between you and him … These things I know, Ubertino; I also have belonged to those groups of men who believe they can produce the truth with white-hot iron. Well, let me tell you, the white heat of truth comes from another flame.” 
Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose (1980)




On this date at Daily Kos in 2008No Rice in 2008:

Given the penchant of Bush Republicans to promote those who fail most spectacularly, it wasn’t surprising to see the wignnut-o-phere promoting Condi as their party’s top choice for 2008.

I mean, she ignored an intelligence report titled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S” in the month leading up to 9-11. That would’ve ended the career of a lesser mortal, but the woman who called Bush her “husband” gets the benefit of the doub —nay—she gets Republican bloggers pinning for her presidential candidacy.

But alas, Condi is not a politician, as her performance on the 9-11 commission (among other places) showed. She’d get eaten alive in a primary battle by the more experienced politicos. And really, she has no natural constituency inside the Republican Party primary electorate.

She knows all these things, apparently, since she’s emphatically saying no to a run.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice ruled out a run for the presidency yesterday, damping grass-roots efforts to draft her for a 2008 election campaign.

“I don’t have any desire to run for president, I don’t intend to, I won’t do it,” she said on ABC’s “This Week.” “I don’t know how many ways to say ‘No.'”

On today’s Kagro in the Morning show, Greg Dworkin and Joan McCarter wrap-up on the PA-18 special election, plus the rest of the Day in Madness. Call your Senators! There’s a racist rollback of banking regulations afoot! Plus, we learn an Alabama sheriff’s time-tested recipe for grift & grits.

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