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Kiriakou writes: "President Donald Trump's appointment of Gina Haspel as deputy director of the CIA is the clearest sign yet that the president has come down on the side of those at the Agency who were the architects of the Bush-era torture policy."

An interrogation room in Camp Delta for detainees from the U.S. war in Afghanistan is shown April 7, 2004 in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. (photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
An interrogation room in Camp Delta for detainees from the U.S. war in Afghanistan is shown April 7, 2004 in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. (photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

With Haspel, Trump's Infrastructure for Torture Is in Place

By John Kiriakou, Reader Supported News

05 February 17


resident Donald Trump’s appointment of Gina Haspel as deputy director of the CIA is the clearest sign yet that the president has come down on the side of those at the Agency who were the architects of the Bush-era torture policy. Haspel was a protégé of Jose Rodriguez, the CIA’s notorious former Counterterrorism Center (CTC) director and, according to The Washington Post and The New York Times, she was the chief of the secret prison where Abu Zubaydah and others were tortured. Furthermore, the Times reports, it was Haspel who ordered the destruction of video tapes showing the Abu Zubaydah torture sessions, on orders from Rodriguez.

Described in the media as a “seasoned intelligence veteran,” Haspel has served in the CIA for more than 30 years, both at Headquarters and in senior positions overseas. CIA director Mike Pompeo lauded her “uncanny ability to get things done” and said that she “inspires those around her.” Maybe. But many of the rest of us called her “Bloody Gina,” and we kept our distance.

Trump could have chosen anybody to be deputy CIA director. Perhaps recognizing the fact that Pompeo has only four years of peripheral intelligence experience (he did two terms on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence as a junior member and has no other professional intelligence experience), the president thought he ought to appoint somebody who could be the adult in the room. Previous presidents have done the same thing, naming career analysts or operators to the position. But nobody in recent memory has brought as much baggage to the position as Haspel.

It was Haspel who was Rodriguez’s handpicked warden of the first secret prison the CIA created to handle al-Qaeda detainees. It was Haspel who oversaw the staff, including discredited contract psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, the notorious pair who came up with the torture techniques and who actually carried out torture on prisoners. It was Haspel who videotaped the torture of Abu Zubaydah. And it was Haspel who carried out her master’s instructions to destroy the tapes, despite being specifically told by the White House Counsel to preserve them.

I would call that “obstruction of justice” and “destroying evidence.” And the last time I checked, those were felonies.

It is a travesty that somebody like Haspel would be rewarded with the second-most-important position at the CIA. But what is worse is the message that Trump is sending to the CIA workforce: Engage in war crimes, in crimes against humanity, and you’ll still get ahead. Don’t worry about the law. Don’t worry about ethics. Don’t worry about morality. We’ll take care of you. You can still make it to the top.

Haspel’s appointment is also an insult to the likes of Defense Secretary James Mattis, the retired four-star general who told Trump to his face that torture doesn’t work, and to Pompeo himself, who said in his confirmation hearings that he was opposed to the torture program and would not reinstate it, even if ordered to do so by the president.

The appointment also signals Trump’s willingness to provoke a fight. Christopher Anders, the deputy director of the Washington office of the American Civil Liberties Union, told The New York Times that the appointment left him “gravely concerned.” Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) in 2013 objected to Haspel’s temporary appointment as director of the CIA’s National Clandestine Service, the Agency’s operations directorate, thus denying her the position on a permanent basis. Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.), the ranking member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI), said that while he appreciated Haspel’s “many years of service at the CIA,” he wanted assurances that she intends to comply with the spirit and letter of the law banning torture. She has yet to make any public statement.

The SSCI will have a chance to weigh in on Haspel’s nomination. But don’t expect much in the way of leadership there. The Democrats on the SSCI have been complicit in many of the CIA’s worst programs since the September 11 attacks, including the torture program and secret prisons. I seriously doubt that Democrats will mount much of a challenge to her.

For the rest of us, the message is clear. If Trump wants to bring torture back, he will have the infrastructure and staff in place to do it. We have to remain vigilant.

John Kiriakou is a former CIA counterterrorism officer and a former senior investigator with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. John became the sixth whistleblower indicted by the Obama administration under the Espionage Act - a law designed to punish spies. He served 23 months in prison as a result of his attempts to oppose the Bush administration's torture program.

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+12 # dotlady 2017-02-05 12:06
We will be vigilant but no information will be forthcoming from this administration and it will do what it wants. Torture degrades the perpetrators of torture, and the image of countries that espouse it. It endangers our own soldiers, while producing little or nothing of importance, according to security insiders.
+5 # DongiC 2017-02-05 13:16
Trump is putting the pieces together to assemble his torture apparatus. Now, in Gina Haspel, he has the director in charge. The mean DJ Trumpster can certainly get even with anyone at all, with anyone that crosses him up.
+18 # elkingo 2017-02-05 13:24
As ever, Kiriakou shows himself to be a humanitarian and a patriot, a combo not often seen.
-4 # Femihumanist 2017-02-05 16:18
Quoting elkingo:
As ever, Kiriakou shows himself to be a humanitarian and a patriot, a combo not often seen.

I disagree. You can't be a "patriot" if you're not a "humanitarian." It's about time we stopped using their euphemisms and used accurate language. They can call themselves "patriots" and be lying; many of us really want what's best for the country and for the world.
+15 # Kootenay Coyote 2017-02-05 14:58
It’s quite adequately proven that torture does not work: it cannot secure reliable information. Therefore the only reason for applying it is to gratify the tormenters. What does that show about the character of all involved in this foul obscenity?
+3 # Jaax88 2017-02-05 18:25
"What does that show about the character of all involved in this foul obscenity?"

It shows from the trump down through Pence and the CIA administration and the GOP members who do not denounce the appointment of Haspel should be considered potential war criminals and if torture does start all should be arrested and brought to trial at an international court.
+5 # elizabethblock 2017-02-05 16:02
Dr. Shane O'Mara is a professor of experimental brain research at Trinity College Dublin and the author of the book, "Why Torture Doesn't Work." He was interviewed yesterday on "Quirks and Quarks," the science program on the CBC.

Does torture work? Depends what you're trying to do. If you want to get reliable information, of course not. If you want to get a confession and you don't care if it's the truth, or if you simply want to show the torture victim who's boss, it works just fine.
+3 # angelfish 2017-02-05 20:48
WE are Americans! We do NOT Torture! We are Americans who believe in Freedom! Torture is Cruel, Inhumane and Ineffective! Interrogation is one thing, Torture is what the Japanese, the Nazis and Torquemada did! We are ABOVE gratuitous Violence! It only reinforces the FACT that Trump and his ReTHUGlican Minions have VERY small Penises and Testicles! Which cause them to strut around like Bulls in Rut at the Thought of HURTING Someone, ANYONE, for THEIR own Perverted Obsessions! If they DO this, they put our OWN Forces at risk for, not only Torture, but God only KNOWS what else! IMPEACH the LOT of them!
-6 # Dale 2017-02-06 11:06
John Kelly, a retired General, was for a time in charge of the Guantanamo prison that housed our very worst terrorist enemies, is our new Director of Homeland Security. When Guantanamo prisoners staged a protest hunger strike Kelly knew just what to do, forced feeding to keep them alive and responsive to interrogation. It is unclear whether the forced feeding was by way of rectal insertions as the CIA had practiced in other dark sites. De-hydration was not a torture technique. The prisoners got plenty of water to drink in their frequent interrogation by water boarding.

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