Gina Haspel Seems to Admit Knowing Jane Harman Opposed Torture Tape Destruction — Just Not Caring

Gina Haspel provided two significantly different responses in questions for the record about her knowledge of Jane Harman’s opposition to torture tape destruction and Carl Levin’s proposal to launch a commission to investigate torture.

Here’s how she answered a Dianne Feinstein question about Harman, who first said CIA shouldn’t destroy the tape in 2003 while serving as Ranking Member.

Question: (U) At the time of the tapes’ destruction, were you aware of the request from Representative Jane Harman that the videos be preserved? Were you aware of CIA attorneys’ concerns that congressional investigators or a congressionally authorized commission might seek access to them? Were you aware of the White House Counsel’s and Director of National Intelligence’s instructions that they not be destroyed?

Response: (U) To the best of my recollection, at the time of the destruction of the videotapes, I was aware of concerns raised in several quarters about destroying the tapes, but I was told that there were no legal prohibitions to destroying the tapes. Ultimately, the decision to destroy the tapes was made by the former Deputy Director for Operations.

In response to a question about Harman, Haspel admits that she was aware of opposition to destroying the tapes (Harman’s opposition showed up in a number of internal reviews, so there was would have been a paper trail documenting her knowledge). Her response suggests Congressional opposition to destroying the tapes did not affect the legal question.

Compare that to her answer about Carl Levin’s initial efforts to conduct an inquiry into torture just days before the tapes were destroyed.

Question: (U) Were you aware that legislation had been introduced in the U.S. Congress to review detainee issues when you drafted the cable authorizing the destruction of detainee interrogation videotapes on November 8, 2005? Please describe all conversations you had regarding congressional oversight of this matter prior to the destruction of the videotapes.

Response: (U) To the best of my recollection, I was not aware of this proposed legislation and I do not recall any discussions pertaining to congressional oversight of detainee videotapes prior to the destruction in November 2005.

Here, she offers a “do not recall” answer, probably because she and Jose Rodriguez did not memorialize any discussions of the possibility that Congress might shortly demand that CIA retain the tapes, if they had any discussions, so there was no proof she knew of it. She’s also discounting Harman’s objection as something other than “congressional oversight of detainee videotapes.”

Ultimately, it all comes down to not giving a shit what Congress thinks, though, while carefully protecting herself against claims that they destroyed the tapes in response to Levin’s actions, as opposed to the public reporting on the torture program that also immediately preceded the tape destruction.

11 replies
  1. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Nothing like having a foreign intelligence agency that can say, “Fuck you,” to Congress whenever it feels like it.  If this is the kind of bureaucratic expertise that makes Benjamin Wittes giggly, I’d say the same, but not to Congress.  I suppose this is the CIA, designed from the get go in 1947 to be an occult agency, mimicking the Pentagon’s ability to say the same thing.

  2. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Nice h/t you gave on twitter to the AP article suggesting that Trump moved up his announcement of his violation of the Iran nuclear deal because the Europeans and Iran – feverishly negotiating for months – had just agreed to Trump’s demands to “improve” the deal.  Smells a lot like Bolton and Miller convincing the malleable Trump that war is a dish best served when peace threatens.

  3. Bob Conyers says:

    Is there a good sense what was motivation for her to be a big driver of torture? Groupthink, ambition, sadism, cowardice, stupidity – what was behind it? (Recognizing it can be more than one thing, of course)

    • teRiaN says:

      perverted lust of seeing/doing harm to others?  So I would pick: sadism, cowardice and wrap it w/stupidity.

    • Interstitial Matter says:

      Is there a good sense what was motivation for her to be a big driver of torture?

      I will all but guarantee you will never get an honest answer to that question. While you propose answers, you leave out the most prevalent in terms of personal thought by those who advocate torture’s use.

      Some mistakenly believe that if you beat someone hard enough and long enough, the torture victim(s) will give what the torturer needs to hear. At the same time, they discount the possibility the torture victim(s) will only give what torturer wants to hear.

    • Jill Scipione says:

      The motivation of torture is the degradation and dehumanization of the “enemy”. I believe it is one of the most basic forms of terrorism. It has nothing to do with information and the perpetrators know this. I read the number 1 torture of the Khmer Rouge was waterboarding. That gives one some idea of its purpose. I also read in the aftermath of the Bush/Cheney years a commentary about the use of torture in SA authoritarian countries.  When a dictatorial leader took over they would use torture. Why would that be? It is not for the sake of information (which I believe is a lie all authoritarians and torturers use). The idea is that they are showing they have absolute power. They torture because they can. They are demonstrating that no one can stop them and that they are above any sense of the rule of law. That applies here as well I think.


    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      I agree with the foregoing comments.  Torture is also corrupting of those who use it and advocate for its use.  Two decades ago, for example, a Gina Haspel would not have been nominated.  If nominated, she would have been grilled for hours over several sessions, and her nomination would have been withdrawn before being voted down.

  4. John says:

    Read Scarry’s Body in Pain ( as a good first book to understand torture. It’s based upon torture documented by Amnesty International, torture (Or as Haspel would say, “interrogations;” that is, the CIA has always conducted interrogations and retained knowledge of “interrogation” techniques.) which the CIA taught to central American allies.

    Basically, torture gives the torturer a sense of her own power by demonstrating her control over their victim. For Haspel and others, that feeling of power and control over their victims makes them feel that they have power and control over a situation that may have characteristics of chaos and uncertainty. Whether or not torture yields useful information or useless information is a secondary effect of torture. Indeed, by being in control of the victim, the useless information tends to be regarded as “useful” because it is a result of the torturer’s powerful agency. So, because the act of torture affirms the torturer’s agency, a torturer will tend to regard it as productive and effective.

  5. GKJames says:

    And still a considerable part of the body politic continues to peddle the fraud that there is Congressional “oversight” of the national security apparatus.

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