Friends, there are many deeply disturbing things going on in Washington; it’s hard to keep up.
But here’s one I’m keeping up with, and I invite your attention:
The nomination of longtime CIA officer Gina Haspel to be head of the CIA.
Her nomination should be stopped. Haspel is a torturer, with deep involvement in some of the most horrible abuses and crimes of the ‘War On Terror” era.
Yes, torture IS already a crime. A federal felony. We don’t need Congress to pass new laws about that. Just enforce the laws already on the books. And one big step toward such accountability would be to stop the Haspel nomination.
Time is short for action to stop Haspel’s ascent. A hearing on her nomination is slated for early May. One of those who has made the case against promoting Haspel is libertarian Senator Rand Paul. Here’s part of his argument:
“Why I’m Against Gina Haspel”
Some details may be disputed, but it remains true that Haspel ran a secret center in Thailand where prisoners were tortured.
There is no question that during her career, Haspel participated in and helped develop the program that our own government has labeled torture. Though there have been the typical suggestions that she was “simply following orders,” Glenn Carle, a former CIA interrogator, has described her as “one of the architects, designers, implementers and one of the top two managers of the [“Enhanced Interrogation Techniques” torture program] and a true believer, by all accounts, in the ‘Global War in Terror’ paradigm.”
This does not sound like someone who was simply “following orders.” This sounds like someone who was giving them, which I would argue is far worse.
Nor is it debatable that she was present in Thailand when Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri was waterboarded three times in late 2002.
Further, multiple accounts have discussed her involvement in destroying video documentation of the torture program.
Think about that for a moment. She helped destroy the very evidence of this program, and people tell us we have no reason for concern?
Direct participation in the program itself would be disqualifying enough for me, but appointing someone who also helped push for destroying evidence of that program to run one of the most powerful organizations in the world should not be acceptable to Congress.
Paul was preceded by Senator John McCain, who has spoken out against the CIA torture program many times. Here’s part of one statement:
“What might come as a surprise, not just to our enemies, but to many Americans, is how little these practices did to aid our efforts to bring 9/11 culprits to justice and to find and prevent terrorist attacks today and tomorrow. That could be a real surprise, since it contradicts the many assurances provided by intelligence officials on the record and in private that enhanced interrogation techniques were indispensable in the war against terrorism.
And I suspect the objection of those same officials to the release of this report is really focused on that disclosure – torture’s ineffectiveness – because we gave up much in the expectation that torture would make us safer. Too much.
“Obviously, we need intelligence to defeat our enemies, but we need reliable intelligence. Torture produces more misleading information than actionable intelligence. And what the advocates of harsh and cruel interrogation methods have never established is that we couldn’t have gathered as good or more reliable intelligence from using humane methods.
“The most important lead we got in the search for bin Laden came from using conventional interrogation methods. I think it is an insult to the many intelligence officers who have acquired good intelligence without hurting or degrading prisoners to assert we can’t win this war without such methods. Yes, we can and we will.
“But in the end, torture’s failure to serve its intended purpose isn’t the main reason to oppose its use. I have often said, and will always maintain, that this question isn’t about our enemies; it’s about us. It’s about who we were, who we are and who we aspire to be. It’s about how we represent ourselves to the world.
“We have made our way in this often dangerous and cruel world, not by just strictly pursuing our geopolitical interests, but by exemplifying our political values, and influencing other nations to embrace them. When we fight to defend our security we fight also for an idea, not for a tribe or a twisted interpretation of an ancient religion or for a king, but for an idea that all men are endowed by the Creator with inalienable rights.
How much safer the world would be if all nations believed the same. How much more dangerous it can become when we forget it ourselves even momentarily. . . .
Much more material, pro and con, is available online. But my view is clear: torture is a crime, she pushed for it, led it and helped conceal it. Such behavior should not be rewarded. In fact, my meme is:
Haspel should be investigated, not nominated.
If you agree, I invite you to let Washington know, now. You can call, write letters, FAX the Senate, show up and protest.
And my colleagues in QUIT (the Quaker Initiative to end Torture) have prepared a convenient postcard to send to Senators, the White House, the media, and other “influencers.”
Its message is succinct:
If you’d like to join this effort, I’ll send you a dozen postcards free, while supplies last. Just send me a private message or an email at chuckfager(at)aol(dot)com & tell me where to send them. (If you want 100, thats okay too, but please add $10 to help with costs.) Pass some along to others who are concerned. If you use them up, send for more.
To be sure, this is a long shot. But ten years ago, I interviewed a Swiss investigator named Dick Marty.
A seemingly modest, unassuming man, Marty’s brilliant & relentless detective work had ripped the cover off the CIA’s “black sites” torture centers, and exposed the “torture taxi” flights that serviced them (many of which started in my home state of North Carolina, to our continuing shame).
He told me then that uprooting the U.S. torture program would be “a long work,” calling for “patience and determination.” He was right when he said that. He’s still right.
I agree with him about determination.
But I have trouble with the patience part. Accountability is years overdue. Opposition to promoting a known torture chief to the top CIA job is before us. Now. Let us act.
PS. These cards are available too. Same deal.