Ron Wyden Makes It Clear Gina Haspel Pushed for Torture to Continue in 2005

Among the many, many damning details of Gina Haspel’s confirmation hearing, one sticks out. Ron Wyden asked her whether, during the 2005 to 2007 period, whether she ever asked for the torture program to be continued or expanded. She didn’t answer. Instead, she dodged:

Haspel: Like all of us who were in the counterterrorism center and working at CIA in those years after 9/11, we all believed in our work, we were committed, we had been charged with making sure the country wasn’t attacked again. And we had been informed that the techniques in CIA’s program were legal and authorized by the highest legal authority in our country and also the President. So I believe, I and my colleagues in the counterterrorism center were working as hard as we could with the tools that we were given to make sure that we were successful in our mission.

Wyden: My time is short and that, respectfully, is not responsive to the question. That was a period where the agency was capturing fewer detainees, waterboarding was no longer approved, and especially in light of that Washington Post story, I would really like to have on the record whether you ever called for the program to be continued, which it sure sounds to me like your answer suggested. You said, well we were doing our job it ought to be continued.

This makes it clear that Haspel was involved in reauthorizing torture in 2005, in a process that was as rife with lies to DOJ as the original authorization process had been.

It also makes Haspel directly responsible for the torture of people like Abu Farj al-Lbi, which the torture report describes this way.

On May 2005, one day after al-Libi’s arrival at DETENTION SITE BLACK, CIA interrogators received CIA Headquarters approval for the use of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques on Abu Faraj al-Libi. CIA interrogators began using the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques on Abu Faraj al-Libi on May 28, 2005, two days before the OLC issued its memorandum analyzing whether the techniques violated U.S. obligations under the Convention Against Torture.891

The CIA interrogated Abu Faraj al-Libi for more than a month using tlie CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques. On a number of occasions, CIA interrogators applied the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques to Abu Faraj al-Libi when he complained of a loss of hearing,repeatedly telling him to stop pretending he could not hear well.892 Although the interrogators indicated that they believed al-Libi’s complaint was an interrogation resistance technique, Abu Faraj al-Libi was fitted for a hearing aid after his transfer to U.S. military custody at Guantanamo Bay in 2006.893 Despite the repeated and extensive use of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques on AbuFaraj al-Libi, CIA Headquarters continued to insist throughout the summer and fall of 2005 that Abu Faraj al-Libi was withholding information and pressed for the renewed use of the techniques. The use of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques against Abu Faraj al-Libi was eventually discontinued because CIA officers stated that they had no intelligence to demonstrate that Abu Faraj al-Libi continued to withhold information, and because CIA medical officers expressed concern that additional use of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques “may come with unacceptable medical or psychological risks.894 After the discontinuation of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques, the CIA asked Abu Faraj al-Libi about UBL facilitator Abu Ahmad al-Kuwaiti for the first time.895 Abu Faraj al-Libi denied knowledge of al-Kuwaiti.896

That Haspel appears to have pushed to use torture with al-Libi is significant for multiple reasons. First, as noted, the CIA tortured al-Libi immediately after taking him into custody. There was no show of seeing whether he would cooperate. The CIA used his claim of hearing problems — a claim that turned out to be true — as an excuse to do more torture. CIA apparently kept asking to resume torture with him, even though it didn’t work.

Really importantly for the legacy of the torture program, al-Libi not only didn’t reveal the identity of Abu Ahmad al-Kuwaiti while he was being tortured, he continued to lie about it after he was tortured.

But Haspel’s involvement in this might be most problematic given the timing of it. As noted, the CIA asked for custody of al-Libi while they were still getting torture reauthorized; the first two Bradbury memos, authorizing torture and then their use of them in combination, were approved on May 10. As further noted, however, CIA started torturing al-Libi before the last Bradbury memo was signed on May 30. We know from Jim Comey’s memos about that process that DOJ was pushed very hard to approve them. Critically important, however, is that Alberto Gonzales made a case against reapproving torture at the May 31 principals meeting. In spite of DOJ concerns, the principals committee reapproved all the techniques.

That’s because CIA had already started torturing al-Libi. Effectively, CIA (so, presumably, Haspel, among others), rushed to torture al-Libi so that the government would have no choice but to reauthorize it.

15 replies
  1. earlofhuntingdon says:

    However desirable as a political skill, being a master of the non-denial denial should not be the principal reason to appoint Gina Haspel to lead the CIA.

    The CIA has more responsibilities than managing the field ops of graduates of “the Farm”. Much of the CIA’s work is not James Bondish. It doesn’t just track and kill. It coordinates and adds to a lot of work done by others. It hosts important programs, such as nuclear non-proliferation – the kind that Cheney let twist in the wind so that he could get back at Valerie Plame’s husband by outing her. It is primarily an intelligence gathering and analysis agency. Again, Cheney & Co. worked hard to bend its conclusions to support their political objectives. But that analysis is not credible if it so easily bends to the political wind.

    Gina Haspel has demonstrated that bending to the political wind is one of her defining characteristics. Keeping her as No. 2 seems inevitable. Promoting her to No. 1 is not.

  2. SpaceLifeForm says:

    “no choice but to reauthorize it”

    Or, just retro-cover?

    Another way to look at it: Is CIA calling all of the shots?

  3. TheraP says:

    Haspel: “we believed in our work”

    To them war crimes constitute “work” and the carrying out of torture must have been viewed as just another bureaucratic feature of the job.

    Such a mindset is reminiscent of the “good Germans” who cooperated to build, staff, and smoothly run camps for the extermination, experimentation on, and torture of human beings, including the erasure of the evidence through the incineration of the bodies.

    But “pushing” for torture? That’s more than following orders. That’s a complete abrogation of moral principles and international law.

    Abominable! Disgusting! Abhorrent!

  4. Trevanion says:

    All well and good for Senator Wyden to establish that point (doing so at least for those with helpful translation from EW). But today’s hearing was still a pathetic snapshot of where we are after 17 years of bipartisan fear-mongering and bipartisan avoidance of oversight. The tolerance of such an Olympian display of incessant dissembling was sickening.

  5. John Allen says:

    Adolf Eichmann also said he was following orders. He sent about 3+ million Jews to their deaths. So if “Bloody Gina” Haspel is following orders what or whose are they? The numbers may be less but still it’s a war crime and they should be prosecuted not put in charge. This country is on a collision course with death.

  6. Trip says:

    OT, Marcy, I’m not sure how curious you are about this, but it’s every bit as stinky as M Cohen making bank on access, pay to play schemes.

    Scott Pruitt

    The curious case of Pruitt’s cozy lobbyist rental; Is it possible he wasn’t even there at the time the door was smashed in? Just thinking out loud, but maybe the locks were changed by management after he was in arrears on the measly rent? That he could be comatose, unresponsive to calls, less than an hour after being in his office just seems…very strange:

    Pruitt fell behind on payments for his $50-a-night condo rental

    New Files Shed Light on the Day Guards Smashed Scott Pruitt’s Door
    The urgent message that came in to the head of criminal enforcement at the Environmental Protection Agency was short and to the point: “The boys did good — they did what needed to be done.” It added one more detail: “All good — except for a couple of doors we’ll have to pick up the tab for.”…The total bill: $2,460…Mr. Pruitt has a 20-member security detail providing round-the-clock protection that has cost more than $3 million in salary, overtime and travel. Asked on Tuesday why the security detail did not have a key to open the door, an E.P.A. agent involved in the matter, John Mickle, said he had no comment….In July 2017 Mr. Hart, the former lobbyist, met with Mr. Pruitt on behalf of a client of his firm, Smithfield Foods and its Smithfield Foundation, while Mr. Pruitt was living in the condo, to discuss funding for the cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay. He later sent an email to Mr. Pruitt’s chief of staff asking Mr. Pruitt to appoint people recommended by his client to the E.P.A.’s prestigious Science Advisory Board.

    American Oversight

    We still have questions. Pruitt’s desk phone log shows he was still in the office at 4:11pm — but his bodyguards broke down his condo door after being unable to reach him at 5:20pm:…

  7. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Gina Haspel comes across as the kindly aunt with a PhD, who spent a lot of time in the field with Dian Fossey. The one who tells stories over Thanksgiving dinner about disarmingly talking her way out of border stops in Rwanda. That would be a mistaken impression, like imagining Barbara Bush as a maiden aunt whose only ambitions were to organize the church jumble sale and to serve tea on the vicarage lawn.

    Ms. Haspel is no one’s demure aunt. She is Dick Cheney with a hip flask and a water hose.

    • Kathleen says:

      Gina seems like a poacher of gorilla hands all the while denying Fossey’s efforts to protect gorilla’s and completely ignoring the laws set up to protect them.  Then she destroys the evidence of her involvement. Clearly not to be trusted.


      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        In the Fossey analogy, if it had been the Congo instead of Rwanda, the hands would not be gorillas’.

  8. Thomasa says:

    Can’t the senate call a spade a spade re the CIA? I understand that senate confirmation hearings must be bounded but is there some way of putting the subjects of this particular hearing in the context of the past 70 years? After all that has been written about the CIA and Ray McGovern’s violent ejection from yesterday’s hearing, enquiring minds might want to know how the push for this particular “administrator” fits into the whole. Why her?

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      If it wanted to, yes.

      As I think EW said on twitter, the Senate grilled Robert Gates over multiple sessions before he was appointed Director of the CIA in 1991, under Bush the Elder, himself a former Director.  The current treatment of the more controversial and less qualified Gina Haspel illustrates this GOP-led Senate’s current dysfunction.

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