Defending Rights & Dissent Opposes Trump’s Nominee Who Was Involved in Torture to Head CIA

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Update 3/16/2018: An earlier version of this statement included the claim that Gina Haspel oversaw the torture of Abu Zubaydah, who was waterboarded 83 times, repeatedly slammed into a wall, and lost his left eye. This claim was based on reporting from February 2017 by both ProPublica and The New York Times. Since this statement was released, ProPublica has retracted its claim that Haspel was involved in the torture of Abu Zubaydah. Per ProPublica, Haspel was in charge of a CIA black site in Thailand, Abu Zubaydah was tortured at the black site in Thailand, but Abu Zubaydah’s torture took place before Haspel arrived on site.

Haspel’s supporters are latching onto this claiming it exonerates her. This is not the case and we continue to oppose her nomination. Even if she was not involved in the torture of Abu Zubaydah, Abu Zubaydah was not the only person tortured at the secret CIA and no one is disputing that when Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri was waterboarded three times at this secret prison Haspel was in charge. And ProPublica has not retracted its claims that Haspel was involved in the destruction of evidence of torture that took place at the black site.

The CIA has failed to be forthcoming about its torture program. The majority of names of those involved in torture are redacted in the portion of the Senate Intelligence Committee report, meaning journalists and advocates left putting together pieces of what information is in the public record.  If Haspel wants to be considered for public office, all information about her involvement in the CIA torture program must be made public.

Defending RIghts & Dissent has consistently stood up for torture and throughout the 1980s we campaigned for greater accountability for CIA covert action. We stand opposed to Haspel’s nomination.

This morning the world learned via Twitter that current Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director Mike Pompeo would be replacing Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State. Trump has nominated Gina Haspel to take Pompeo’s place at the CIA.

Defending Rights & Dissent calls on the Senate to reject Haspel’s nomination. During the Bush presidency, Haspel oversaw the torture program at a CIA black site in Thailand. 

Later, when stationed back at CIA headquarters in Langley (Haspel has been a CIA employee since 1985) Haspel would order the destruction of the video evidence of torture.

Trump’s outspoken public zeal for torture is an embodiment of his deep-seated authoritarian tendencies and contempt to human rights. It is not surprising that Trump would nominate Haspel. However, former President Barack Obama also bears some responsibility. Obama decided that even though “we tortured some folks”  we needed to “look forward, not backward.” As a result, no one was held accountable for Bush-era CIA torture program. Had the Obama administration brought criminal prosecutions against those responsible for torture, as opposed to prosecuting CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou, Haspel might not be in a position to be nominated to run the CIA.

Gina Haspel should be subject to a criminal investigation, not running the CIA. Defending Rights & Dissent adamantly opposes her nomination and calls upon the Senate to reject her.