Monday, May 07, 2018

"Yoo made me do it"

Probably the worst argument for promoting Haspel to head the CIA

I can't directly connect Gina Haspel to the torture of Abu Zubaydah, since she was not the Chief of Base at Detention Site Green in Thailand in from March through August, 2002 (she took that position in October of 2002).  To refresh your memory of what we mean by "torture," I would advise this account of what Abu Zubaydah suffered, for no purpose, during those months, in the name of We, The People.  She wasn't present for Mr. Zubaydah's torture, but she was there as COB for the torture of Abdul al-Rahim al-Nashari.  Mr. Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times in four months.  He is still in U.S. custody, but his condition is classified.  His lawyer is only authorized to report this:

Because of what he was made to endure, Abu Zubaydah suffers from frequent seizures, the origin of which cannot be determined. He is tormented by sounds that others do not hear, and cannot remember simple things that others cannot forget. Because his condition is classified, there is much about his welfare that the United States will not let me say. They have authorized me to report, however, that I am “very concerned.”

Zubaydah's lawyer also notes:

Other questions surround her role in the destruction of nearly 90 videotapes of my client’s torture, as well as several showing the torture of al-Nashiri. Again, the public record is ambiguous. On the one hand, there is no question that Haspel signed the cable directing that the tapes be destroyed. This is an exceedingly serious matter, not simply because it led to the destruction of irreplaceable evidence, but because at least one federal judge had explicitly ordered that the tapes be preserved. If Haspel deliberately violated the order of a federal judge, she could — and should — be held in contempt of court.
As for the destruction of those videotapes, they didn't involve just the torture of Abu Zubaydah:

Haspel moved to cover up the agency’s operations at the Thai base. The chief of base told the security officer “to burn everything that he could in preparation for sanitizing the black site,” Mitchell wrote in his book, “Enhanced Interrogation: Inside the Minds and Motives of the Islamic Terrorists Trying to Destroy America,” which was published late last year.

According to Mitchell’s account, the security officer asked the chief of base whether he should include the tapes; he was told to hold off until “she” could check with Washington.

She was told to retain them. A few years later when she was back in Washington and chief of staff to the director of operations for counterterrorism, Jose Rodriquez, the man who had sent her to Thailand, she continued to lobby for destruction of the tapes.

“My chief of staff drafted a cable approving the action we had been trying to accomplish for so long,” Rodriquez writes in his memoir. “The cable left nothing to chance. It even told them how to get rid of the tapes. They were to use an industrial-strength shredder to do the deed.”

Without approval from the White House or Justice Department, Rodriquez gave the order.

In a twist of fate, destroying the tapes drew more outside scrutiny of the program. Disclosure of the shredding prompted the Senate Intelligence Committee to begin its long-running examination of the torture program. The result was a 7,000-page report that drew on thousands of highly classified cables relating to the Bush administration’s rendition and detention program and concluded torture was not effective.  
It's always the cover up, isn't it?  The CIA's defense of its action is that the tapes were not necessary, that detailed records were preserved:

Remarkably, the CIA argued that it did not need to preserve videotapes of its “enhanced interrogations” — torture sessions with suspects that involved methods like wall slams, confinement boxes, and waterboarding — because they were like formal government meetings, and therefore less stringent guidelines applied when it came to preserving records of such a “meeting.”
 In the correspondence they show, the CIA maintained that it was justified in destroying the tapes of torture sessions because it preserved cables and transcripts that, in its own judgement, accurately depicted what was on the tapes. In other words, the CIA argued that it could destroy the videotapes because it still had a record of what was on them — albeit in written, not recorded, form.
Go back and read just the summary of the torture of Abu Zubaydah for 4 months, and consider how much more graphic and disturbing it would be to watch the videotapes of those sessions.  Then consider what it means to appoint someone like Gina Haspel to head the CIA in the Age of Trump. the age in which, as John McCain puts it:

“The appearance of toughness, or a reality show facsimile of toughness, seems to matter more than any of our values.”
And a bit more pointedly:

“His lack of empathy for refugees, innocent, persecuted, desperate men, women and children is disturbing. The way he speaks about them is appalling,” said McCain, who still chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee despite his long medical absence from Washington.

“The world expects us to be concerned with the condition of humanity. We should be proud of that reputation,” McCain said. “I’m not sure the President understands that.” 
Quite plainly, the President does not; the nomination of Gina Haspel to head the CIA is further proof of that.

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