Gina Haspel: A Torturer at the CIA

During her Congressional testimony today, Gina Haspel refused to say that torture is immoral. She also suggested President Trump would never order waterboarding, even though Trump is on the record as supporting it (and far harsher methods of torture). Something tells me she’ll gain Congressional approval despite all this. After all, there are plenty of people already in government who lack both a moral compass and the spine to refuse unlawful and immoral orders. (

Bracing Views

Gina-Haspel-1024-850x672 Gina Haspel: Just following orders?

W.J. Astore

President Trump has nominated Gina Haspel to be the new director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).  Haspel had an important role in the torture regimen approved by the Bush/Cheney administration, and she worked to destroy videotaped evidence of the same.  What does it say about the United States that Haspel is now being rewarded both for enabling torture and for covering it up?

As Peter Van Buren writes at We Meant Well, “Unless our Congress awakens to confront the nightmare and deny Gina Haspel’s nomination as Director of the CIA, torture has already transformed us and so will consume us. Gina Haspel is a torturer. We are torturers. It is as if Nuremberg never happened.”

Back in December of 2008, I wrote about torture for Nieman Watchdog.  The title of my article was “Cheney says he approved waterboarding. Is that…

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19 thoughts on “Gina Haspel: A Torturer at the CIA

  1. Posted this by mistake under the March 28th post :-), so copy here.

    Followed the hearing live and was choking most of the time. In fact such a hearing is a joke when most of the Senators have far too little knowledge of the GWOT torture background. I may have missed a worthwhile one, but only few (particularly senators Harris and King) stood out by asking pertinent questions and not accepting being sidetracked by Bloody Gina’s endless repetitions of how wonderful the CIA is, how amazingly moral she herself is and how everything she ever did was within the law.
    The senators evidently do not know enough to then remind her, that those laws had been engineered specifically on CIA’s suggestions so as to protect the torturers from legal consequences, therefore purely self-serving scams.
    Not to mention the – was it 6?- millions promised to Jessen & Mitchell for legal fees. Why would that be necessary, if it all was legal?
    The tapes were destroyed after many years of deliberation because there had been leaks and they feared more of those? As far as I remember, leaks did not happen until after those long deliberations …

    Warner was far too smooth and Feinstein was a disgrace. When Haspel claimed to be reformed and having miraculously acquired a moral compass – Torturers Anonimous – she should have asked her whether in that case she would agree to release the full Senate report on torture, even if we know the answers once more would have been that that ‘would endanger the lives of her amazing, decent, patriotic agents’. She preferred to use part of her precious five minutes to stress how much she loves Haspel …
    This hearing was the quintessence of ‘Ich hab’es nicht gewusst’ and ‘Befehl ist Befehl’, unbelievable in a supposedly civilised society after Nuernberg et al.

    In such hearings the chairman should tell the candidat to answer the question with Yes or No and cut short her deft delaying tactics, which in many cases wasted far too much of the precious five minutes of the senators.
    Her claim that she will not allow CIA staff to torture or even interrogate (hear, hear, the CIA never interrogated – let alone tortured – anyone before 9/11?!) is a red herring, for as long as she did not acknowledge that torture is immoral no matter who perpetrates it, she can be expected to have no qualms about the army, police or whatever other armed forces doing the dirty work or – as already happened so many times – outsourcing it to ‘democratic’ regimes such as Egypt, Morocco or the UAE. 30 years of covert operations must have taught her how to very carefully formulate anything she says, so as to suggest something that is not there and to hide that which is – while pretending honesty.

    In view of the lavish bi-partisan praise and her pseudo-modest evident ambition, I doubt that this ‘paragon of CIA virtue’ will be rejected …


    1. Yes. She’s also dressing very modestly, almost like a homemaker, to use an old term that my mom used. The banality of evil in a flowered dress.


      1. Yes, Gina wants the look of June Cleaver, but Gina is really Mommy Dearest. So we have Agent Orange for President and Mommy Dearest as the head of the CIA.


    2. As a general rule, it seems to me, it isn’t fair to require that questions (sometimes lengthy) asked of candidates for high office be answered with a simple yes or no. They are more complex than that. . .Have you finished beating your wife?


      1. I just cut corners when writing that :-). I ment those questions which required a simple Yes or No, yet were ‘answered’ with long-winding digressions to deflect attention and plug carefully phrased ‘positive talking points’. Of which there were quite a few. Open questions of course need more complex answers.


  2. There is another article in the Guardian – The CIA has a long history of torture. Gina Haspel will be perfect for the job.

    You could be easily accused of being a conspiracy nut, but so much has emerged. At least according to Wiki Project ARTICHOKE or Operation ARTICHOKE, began back in the early 1950’s. ARTICHOKE was a mind control program that gathered information together with the intelligence divisions of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and FBI. In addition, the scope of the project was outlined in a memo dated January 1952 that stated, “Can we get control of an individual to the point where he will do our bidding against his will and even against fundamental laws of nature, such as self-preservation?

    There was also Project MKUltra another despicable chapter for American Exceptionalism.

    America has never been perfect, but it is sad to see the depths we continue to sink to.


  3. I think it is high time that the American left started rediscovering the language of basic morality. Some things are just never going to be acceptable. Torture has to be one of them. In a sane world, a government’s refusal to rule out torture ought to provoke a national strike. Complete government shutdown. This shouldn’t even be a red/blue issue. We should be united in opposing this disgrace.

    I’d go so far as to say that because we collectively continue to pay our taxes to this debased nightmare of a federal government, we’re all complicit. And eventually, we will pay the price.

    Part of why I’m leaning more and more towards formal separation of the states under an Amended Constitution as our best remaining solution. At least then, those devolved federal governments that continued to accept torture could be identified, singled out, and subjected to sanctions. Like any other rogue state ought to be.


  4. Let’s put the blame where it belongs. Torture, like war, has the support of a majority of Americans which is a clear sign (among others) that America’s moral leaders, the ones it should have really, are failures. Where’s all the godliness the nation’s leaders preach about? Where are all the tax-exempt preachers and priests when we need them? Anybody sermonizing against torture and war? . . .Not enough, if any.
    Reuters, Mar 30, 2016 – Nearly two-thirds of Americans believe torture can be justified to extract information from suspected terrorists, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll.


    1. I think some Americans buy into the “ticking time bomb” scenario. You know, we only have 30 minutes until the bomb blows, so let’s torture this guy so he tells us how to defuse it. We have no time to argue here!

      But those scenarios — a staple of movies and TV shows — are exceedingly rare in real life.


      1. Exactly. Those sorts of surveys are annoyingly deceptive. I have a research background, so I know I get wonky about this, but I think it is always worth pointing out that the way you structure a survey or poll question heavily determines the type of answer you’ll get. And a LOT of people, given the typical option of a hard ‘no torture ever’ vs. ‘torture when absolutely necessary’ will choose B. Humans are very good at seeing possible exceptions to otherwise good rules.

        I’d bet that if you did do a more in-depth survey or poll, that incorporates some experimental design, control/treatment groups, stuff like that, you’ll get a more nuanced set of answers. But most polls aren’t set up to go that deep, and most journalists either don’t want to or don’t understand how to explain the nuances to the general public.


      2. It’s an essential component of the security state that the people be kept afraid, really afraid of foreign foes. Then only the wise solons in Washington are capable of keeping us safe from those devils; it’s the last thing Obama thought about every night before bed. Is a little bombing and torture necessary for this safety? Not a problem. We can be assured that they will do whatever’s necessary.
        The polls can be conducted however one likes, nuanced this way or that way, that is the situation, one that has no strong moral enemies. It’s incorrect to claim that the American people are okay with a huge national destructive force just because of slanted polls, when they have been lied to by bad people and abandoned by the (supposedly) good.


        1. Sad but true. The fear of scary scary Russians/Muslims/KimJongUns/Immigrants is about all D.C. has left to justify its own existence, since it is providing fewer and fewer services to average Americans with each passing year.

          Maybe I’m naive, but I sincerely believe that most Americans, including much of the traditional conservative set, would actively demand less military spending if they were forced to think about how much they personally pay for our present style of ‘defence’. That $2,000 per-capita figure looks a lot worse when you estimate it as per-taxpaying household.

          But spreading awareness on the necessary scale requires a lot of $. If only I could get Bezos to answer my messages about getting 1 of his many billions to start building… well, a bunch of stuff. New political party, politics-focused social media app, boots-on-ground organization…


  5. I just caught this one at the Huffing-and-Puffing Post. I won’t link to such a despicable article (the subject, not the author) but the title, I think, speaks — nauseatingly — for itself.

    Dick Cheney Suggests Restarting Torture Interrogation Program
    Cheney’s comments come as lawmakers have scrutinized CIA director nominee Gina Haspel for her role in overseeing the controversial program.


    1. Everyone calling for torture should be required to endure a few days of “enhanced interrogation.” I wonder how Dick would do after being waterboarded, slammed against the wall, bound in stress positions, assaulted by music, kept in solitary, threatened by dogs … would he still think torture is OK?


  6. Thank you for your comments on polls and polling, Andrew Tanner. As a matter of fact, polls don’t ask what people think but, instead, tell people what to think through incessant repetition and publication of “results.” Given the frequency of these exercises, one would think that people change their minds about important matters as often as three times a week, which they, of course, do not. Anyway, something I wrote eleven years ago on this subject:

    Back in early 2003, a majority of Americans thought it just wonderful that we should kick the living shit out of Iraq, simply because we wanted to at the time and thought we could. Four years later, a majority of Americans now don’t think this shit-kicking stuff has worked out so well since it turned out we only had one leg to stand on and kick the Iraqi people at the same time. Still, though, another majority of Americans can’t decide whether or not continuing to “win” this one-legged ass-kicking contest makes less sense than “losing” it as quickly as humanly possible. Hence:

    Polling the One-Legged Proles

    You ask if they like ‘good’ and they
    Will tell you that they do;
    You say: “You hate ‘bad,’ don’t you?” and
    They answer: “That is true;”
    From all of which we gather what?
    That one plus one is two?

    Majorities, we learn, like wars
    That sound like lots of fun,
    And more than half will always say
    We shouldn’t “cut and run”
    No matter if we die while shouting:
    “We are number one!”

    The old vox populi gives voice
    To popular content
    With knowing not the names of thieves
    Or where the money went;
    Nor even why we haven’t hanged
    The “leaders” we resent.

    They lie and steal with such panache
    That words cannot but fail
    To conjur up the essence of
    Their victims’ plaintive wail,
    And yet they walk free on the earth
    When they should rot in jail.

    Our Romanovs and their Rasputins
    Say we need a “czar”
    Because we cannot rule ourselves
    And don’t know who we are.
    Our rulers scoff at serfs like us
    Whom they find too bizarre.

    So ask us if we like our lot,
    And we will say: “And how!”
    We wouldn’t want to disagree
    With “liking,” would we now?
    So just imply a “positive”
    And we’ll take up the plow.

    Our “goodness” we assume as fact
    Implicit in the word
    As if agreeing with ourselves –
    The bovine, driven herd –
    Somehow makes our conformity
    The least bit less absurd

    And so if we should take a poll,
    We’ll find a total lack
    Of any evidence that we
    Are other than a pack
    Who answer “yes” or “no” on cue,
    And yet who don’t know Jack.

    Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright © 2007


      1. Speaking of right-wing Republicrat feminazis, who can forget (because she won’t let us) the notorious one who claims to have lost the 2016 U.S. presidential election because “the Russians” didn’t like her calling their President Vladimir Putin “Adolph Hitler.” Can’t say as I blame them. You know: Her, as in:

        A Glib Giddy Ghoul / Goldwater’s Girl
        (Venimus. Vidimus. Et Mortuus Est)

        “We came. We saw. He died,” she cackled,
        This chicken hen hawking her bile,
        Amused at the bleeding and shackled
        Gaddafi upon whom would pile
        Jihadists with red hatred spackled,
        And all so Dame Clinton could smile.

        Or, alternatively:

        On hearing of Gaddafi’s savage murder
        She smiled and joked: “We came. We saw. He died.”
        Apparently, she thought that those who heard her
        Would share her chickenhenish war-slut pride.

        She campaigned in her youth for Bomber Barry
        Goldwater, who from Arizona came;
        Who made his money ripping off the natives
        On reservations where he staked his claim.

        Our You-Know-Her worked hard for Bomber Barry
        Who swore that if elected he would kill
        Vietnamese who found us less than scary
        In numbers that would break their iron will.

        A pantsuit with no principles or vision
        Just raw ambition: naked, stark, and vain.
        If peace might happen, war is her decision.
        Goldwater’s Girl is just a John McCain.

        Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright © 2015

        So now, in addition to the initials “C.I.A.” standing for “Can’t Identify Anything” and “Cocaine Importation Association,” they will also mean “Cruel Interrogation Alternatives.” And it just keeps on getting worse …


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