Trump Picks an ‘Actual Torturer’ to Run the CIA

Human rights advocates are expressing outrage on Tuesday after President Donald Trump nominated deputy director Gina Haspel—”an actual torturer“—to be the next CIA director despite her leading role in running an agency black site where detainees were systematically and gruesomely abused.

Haspel is slated to replace current CIA director Mike Pompeo, who Trump has tapped to be the next Secretary of State now that Rex Tillerson has been fired.

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“This appointment should be a warning to allies of the U.S. in the U.K., Europe, and around the world,” declared Maya Foa, director of the London-based Reprieve. “Haspel was one of President Bush’s torturers-in-chief and she is simply not fit to hold an office that requires, at its very heart, a commitment to uphold the values of the Constitution. This is another example of Donald Trump’s backward-looking reliance on people and methods that have failed.”

Several critics pointed to a profile published by the New Yorker last year—after Trump appointed her as deputy director—which detailed how, in the early 2000s, “Haspel was a senior official overseeing a top-secret CIA program that subjected dozens of suspected terrorists to savage interrogations, which included depriving them of sleep, squeezing them into coffins, and forcing water down their throats.”

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In Thailand, Haspel oversaw the “brutal interrogations” of at least two detainees, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. “Zubaydah alone was waterboarded 83 times in a single month, had his head repeatedly slammed into walls, and endured other harsh methods before interrogators decided he had no useful information to provide,” the New York Times reports.

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ProPublica investigation published last year detailed how Haspel “was more deeply involved in the torture of Abu Zubaydah than has been publicly understood, according to newly available records and accounts by participants.” In one exchange described in a book written by an interrogator, Haspel accused Zubaydah of “faking symptoms of physical distress and psychological breakdown,” and supposedly said to him: “Good job! I like the way you’re drooling; it adds realism. I’m almost buying it. You wouldn’t think a grown man would do that.”

Haspel also played a role in the destruction of video evidence that depicted U.S. agents torturing detainees at the CIA’s secret prisons. In 2005, as the Times notes, “Haspel was serving at CIA headquarters, and it was her name that was on the cable carrying the destruction orders.”

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“The concealment of those interrogation tapes, which violated multiple court orders as well as the demands of the 9/11 commission and the advice of White House lawyers, was condemned as ‘obstruction’ by commission chairs Lee Hamilton and Thomas Keane,” Glenn Greenwald pointed out at The Intercept. “A special prosecutor and grand jury investigated those actions but ultimately chose not to prosecute.”

Greenwald did not express surprise at Haspel’s appointment, instead asserting that “this isn’t a radical departure for CIA,” considering the agency’s pro-torture history.

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Some critics who weighed in on the appointment noted that last year, the Berlin-based European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights filed a legal intervention with German authorities, hoping to obtain an arrest warrant for Haspel, based on her role in facilitating and attempting to conceal torture at CIA black sites.

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The president, meanwhile, expressed excitement over his nomination of Haspel.

“Gina, by the way, who I know very well, who I’ve worked very closely with, will be the first woman director of the CIA,” Trump said Tuesday. “She’s an outstanding person.”

To officially take over the agency, Haspel will need to undergo a confirmation hearing with the U.S. Senate, where she’ll likely face some tough questions. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who was critical of Haspel’s appointment as deputy director, released a statement opposing her new appointment on Tuesday:

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