When Donald Trump shitcanned Rex Tillerson this morning, Trump picked CIA Director Mike Pompeo to be his new secretary of State. To replace Pompeo at the CIA, Trump nominated Gina Haspel, the current CIA deputy director. While Haspel didn’t need Senate confirmation last year when she became deputy, she will need confirmation to actually run the agency (or if you read spy novels, the Agency, or better, “the Company,” for there is no other). If there’s any justice — a prospect we increasingly doubt in this crapsack world — she won’t get the votes, because even though she’s a career CIA agent who’s very well regarded by top intelligence community hands like former Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper and former acting CIA Director Mike Morrell, Gina Haspel was up to her armpits in the CIA’s torture program under George W. Bush.
We’re not talking just “served in the CIA when bad things happened” here. As the New York Times reported last year when Haspel was elevated to deputy director, Haspel ran the CIA’s first “black site,” a torture facility in Thailand, and was later among the top people running the torture program. She supervised the interrogations of al Qaeda suspects Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. It was the sort of thing that would, of course, appeal to a sadist like Donald Trump:
Mr. 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.
At one point in Zubaydah’s torture, the interrogators thought they had killed him.
Oh, yes, and Haspel is named in the orders to destroy the videotapes of those torture sessions, although the CIA says the actual decision to deep-six the evidence was made by her boss at the time, then the head of clandestine services Jose Rodriguez. Still, Haspel was high enough in the chain of command that when the CIA wanted to promote her to the job Rodriguez held, Sen. Dianne Feinstein blocked her because of her role in torturing prisoners.
Once Donald Trump, who just loves torture, became president, it was Haspel’s time to shine, especially since, as the Times noted, Mike Pompeo had
said that waterboarding and other techniques do not even constitute torture, and praised as “patriots” those who used such methods in the early days of the fight against Al Qaeda.
Haspel’s nomination is already being opposed by the usual beta cuck liberals who think “human rights” are still a thing, like senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, who told NPR today,
Ms. Haspel’s background makes her unsuitable to serve as CIA director. Her nomination must include total transparency about this background, which I called for more than a year ago when she was appointed deputy director. If Ms. Haspel seeks to serve at the highest levels of U.S. intelligence, the government can no longer cover up disturbing facts from her past.
The Center for Constitutional Rights, which represents victims of the CIA torture program, issued an email statement today from executive director Victor Warren, saying that not only was Haspel “unfit to lead the CIA” but that she “Haspel should be prosecuted not promoted.” Warren also called for the Senate to reject Pompeo as CIA director, because of his support for torture.
As Dexter Filkins noted at the New Yorker last year, Haspel’s choice as deputy CIA director appeared to signal that the spy agency wasn’t about to have the righteousness of its torture program questioned anymore:
A former government official, who spoke to me on condition of anonymity, said that the promotion of Haspel amounted to the C.I.A.’s revenge. “The agency is giving the finger to anyone who was ever critical of the program,” the former official said.
Hurrah. It’s going to be waterboarding for everyone.
Why would James Clapper and Mike Morrell say such nice things about Haspel? We guess they’re intelligence professionals who are able, apparently, to overlook a little torture if it’s run by a consummate professional. She was, as they say, only following orders. And giving them.
Assuming all Democrats vote against Haspel, and that torture survivor John McCain either opposes her or is unable to vote because of his cancer treatments, the Republicans would still have enough votes, with Mike Pence, to confirm her. If just one or two Rs can be shaken loose — Rand Paul, for instance, voted against confirming Pompeo — this nomination could go nowhere. Time to get on the phones again, folks.