Gina Haspel Destroyed the Tapes in 2005 to Hide What She Destroyed in 2002

When Gina Haspel was testifying on Wednesday, she confused those of us who know the history of the torture tapes well. She made two claims that didn’t accord with the public record of the tapes that were destroyed. First, she said that only one detainee was depicted on the 92 tapes that got destroyed. Additionally, she said she, “didn’t appear on the tapes, as has been mischaracterized in the press.”

Yet as an inventory of the tapes shows, two of the tapes depicted Abd al Rahim al-Nashiri, though those tapes were taped over every day.

So there should have been two tapes depicting Nashiri’s torture, and given that she oversaw his torture, there’s a good chance she’d appear on them.

When Charlie Savage asked CIA about the discrepancy, they pointed to a CIA IG review done of the tapes that showed a number of the tapes had been altered before the review.

“Gina Haspel supervised the torture of al-Nashiri, which raises the stakes on the question of whether there were or were not remaining tapes of his torture,” said Hina Shamsi, the director of the A.C.L.U.’s national security project.

Asked about the apparent discrepancy, the C.I.A. pointed without comment to several pages of another document previously released under the Freedom of Information Act that discussed how the agency logged the contents of the 92 tapes before destroying them. It said 11 were blank, two were blank “except for one or two minutes of recording,” and “two were broken and could not be reviewed.”

In 2010, I noted that John Durham was clearly investigating two rounds of torture tape destruction: the second round, in 2005, when Gina Haspel helped her boss Jose Rodriguez destroy all the undamaged tapes. And the first round, in 2002 or 2003, when someone destroyed the evidence on what must be the most damning tapes.

As you recall, when the CIA IG reviewed the torture tapes in May 2003 (that is, five months after McPherson’s review), there were 15 tapes in some state of damage or erasure.

OIG found 11 interrogation tapes to be blank. Two others were blank except for one or two minutes of recording. Two others were broken and could not be reviewed. OIG compared the videotapes to logs and cables and identified a 21-hour period of time” which included two waterboard sessions” that was not captured on the videotapes.

You see, John Durham is investigating two incidents of torture tape destruction: the first, when in 2002 or 2003 someone removed evidence of two sessions of waterboarding (and potentially, the use of mock burial that would be declared torture by John Yoo) from the videotapes. And the second one, on November 8, 2005, when someone destroyed all the tapes, which not only destroyed evidence of waterboarding that violated the terms of the Bybee Two memo, but also destroyed evidence of the first round of destruction.

And John McPherson is likely the only person who can pinpoint when the first round of destruction occurred, before or after November-December 2002.

Now, all that doesn’t tell us precisely what Durham is after or whom, though I’d suggest he’s at least as interested in the people in the loop of the first round of destruction as the second.

As I said, it was not clear who he was after, the names of the people who had destroyed the tapes in the second round or in the first round.

But it appears CIA has now confirmed that: Gina Haspel. The CIA appears to be saying that Gina Haspel was the culprit both of those times.

And when she testified under oath on Wednesday that she supported destroying the tapes because the faces off officers appeared on the tapes, she was only partly telling the truth. It appears virtually certain (particularly given the focus on declassifying the Durham report so people can read his conclusions), she also supported destroying the tapes to hide the first round of destruction she had carried out. If so, she may have done so to hide the fact that her own face didn’t appear on the tapes, if it once had.

One more point: This makes Haspel’s enthusiasm for keeping torture in 2005-2007 all the more damning. Over two years earlier, Haspel appears to have destroyed evidence of how bad torture was. But she was still pushing to keep it even after hiding what she had done.

27 replies
  1. harpie says:

    Aw, com’on Marcy, we know you weren’t really confused! :-)

    [I’ll try to find that other quote.]

    • harpie says:

      C-Span: CIA Director Confirmation Hearing Gina Haspel, President Trump’s choice to head the CIA, testified on her nomination before the Senate Intelligence Committee.
      You wrote “Burr starts” at Twitter time 6:40 AM. So the tweet we’re looking for happened at about 45 minutes in to the hearing.
      It’s right there on the transcript during Burr’s questioning beginning at 44:31.

      • harpie says:

        From the transcript:

        Mr. Rodriquez who was the DDO at the time, the Deputy Director for Operations, has been very up front and has been made it clear on a number of occasions publicly that he and he alone made the decision to destroy the tapes. I would also make it clear that I did not appear on the tapes, as has been mischaracterized in the press.

  2. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Ms. Haspel did indeed say she did not appear on the tapes, but I don’t know at what time in the interview.

    In the early 2000s, tape and forensic analysis of it was improving rapidly.  The material had reached its peak of utility.  It was losing out to mechanical and solid state disc storage.  Prices were declining, discs were much more readily searchable, and s/w based analytics for analyzing it were improving. The CIA’s vast library of tapes had been digitized to make it more easily searchable, but it was already moving over to the newer, cheaper technology.

    My point is that by 2005, it may have been possible to recover from tape what had earlier been unrecoverable material.  The CIA would have been aware of and a keen user of that technology.  A good reason for someone at the CIA to make sure that any torture tapes were no longer available for analysis.

    • john says:

      I don’t think that’s quite accurate.  I was making a documentary at that time.  Solid state recording or recording to hard disk was expensive and cumbersome.  You could record to solid state, but only in 8 or 15 minute intervals without having to change the solid state drive.  Or you could record to hard drive, but it was not reliable and fairly complex.  These methods were rarely used in 2005 because you would obtain a larger number of errors when recording.  Recording to hard drive never became very reliable.  Recording to solid state became reliable after 2005.

      Digital tape, primarily Sony’s MiniDV format, was the most common format for the low-budget documentary.  It was also the format for Mom & Dad recording their home video.  Here’s a discussion thread on recovering from Mini-DV (–25785/).  I believe that it is accurate that once recorded over, digital video on tape was impossible to recover.  There was a market for used dv tape, and there didn’t seem to be any worry about someone stealing or looking at prior material.  Television was recorded in digi-beta.  Digital-beta existed years prior to the mini-dv/dv format, and had a higher memory capacity.

      However, digitizing various forms of DV tape and then sending them to someone by loading the digitized video onto the internet was common.  Also, “logging” in the editing world meant digitizing from dv tape to digital video stored on a hard drive, but here it seems to mean just recording, viewing the tape, and taking notes.

      Various formats of DV tape were fairly inexpensive around 2002-2005.  What is odd is recording over tapes, because that makes an archival system chaotic and haphazard.  On the other hand, such an archival mess allows those taking the videos to easily destroy mistakes or evidence.  The rule was commonly “new recording, new tape” even if you were Mom and Pop doing a recording back then.

      Another possibility is that they recorded to VHS tape.  The benefit of choosing VHS would be that they wouldn’t have to switch tapes as often because a VHS tape can be recorded at a lower quality for a longer period of time.  But the set-up of a VHS recording system is a little complex; however, it might be more familiar to whomever was supervising the recording since it was an older technology.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        The CIA was heavily invested in tape technology and its associated, large, expensive, very high-speed mechanical storage and access drives.  It was one of the largest users of both.  They were moving to digital tape around the turn of the millennium, which made for faster access, but allowed them to utilize their existing storage and access systems, beefed up to handle digital access.

        As you say, disks were not ready for prime time until after 2005.  But the CIA was at the forefront of moving to tape alternatives, which had begun to hit the market before 9/11, but which took over only after 2005.

        I have no idea what recording devices they had in Thailand during their torture festival.  Possibly the then most robust if aging tech, which would have been analogue tape.

        My suggestion was that the threat of greater recoverability of data added to the reasons for the tape destruction – as if their existence alone were not enough, in that they implicated the CIA in crimes, possibly including murder.  The institutional transition to tape alternatives might have created a background that might have helped obscure the act, in the minds of the perpetrators.  Any excuse, I suppose, to cover their asses, which they still seem to be doing.

  3. earlofhuntingdon says:

    I guess it doesn’t pay to know what you’re talking about and to peacefully protest Ms. Haspel’s nomination. At least at a Senate hearing. Twenty-seven year CIA veteran Ray McGovern violently removed and arrested from Senate hearing. Not much coverage in the MSM. This is representative of the alternative media.

  4. earlofhuntingdon says:

    John McCain has much in his record that is honorable. We will soon hear a lot about that.

    He has much, too, that is dishonorable, which isn’t talked about as much near the end of one’s life.  To help balance the record, as a Senator, he often takes the rhetorical high road, then votes the low road.  He added Sarah Palin to his presidential ticket without even a Trumpian vetting of her record.  He has publicly used the verboten “c” word to describe his devoted second wife, the one with more money than he knows what to do with, after leaving his devoted first wife, who had stood by him through and after his Vietnam years.

    As a progressive, I would not assess the totality of his record positively.  It’s a long one and there’s room for debate.  But the Trump White House is wholly despicable.  I agree with Malcolm Nance that Kelly Sadler should resign or be fired forthwith.  But then so should all her colleagues.

    • Trip says:

      McCain was a yes-man in actions, for far too long. McCain also thought Palin would bring on the female vote, because all females are stupid and can’t tell one woman apart from another in policy (and sanity, frankly). Big clue on how much he thought about women. Aside: Rand Paul is the worst offender of high horse speech, but low bar excuses for changing his mind; the master of duplicity.

      And as far as Sadler’s comment, weren’t these assholes just bitchin’ and moanin’ a week ago about the Sanders joke that they misheard anyway? But it’s A-Okay to make fun of a dying man who at least served in the armed forces, as opposed to Mr Heel-Spurs, or whatever it was.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Well, the WH “leak” sure took away the headlines from Mueller, Cohen, Russiagate, Stormy and Avenatti, and Trump’s willful violation of the Iran Nuclear agreement – against the wishes of the whole world.  Is there madness or method in this WH, or both in turn?

  5. Frank Prost says:

    As always, I’m late to the party.  I didn’t watch the hearings live, so I’m only now seeing clips of the interactions.  My first reaction is that she looked and sounded confused the whole time.  There was a significant pause between the time that a question was asked and the time she started answering, which was probably deliberate in order to run out the clock, but it made her look like she didn’t understand the question.  Every answer I saw began with, “Senator, …”, which I’m sure was part of her coaching, but it got old fast.  And her meandering non-answers didn’t even seem to be related to the questions that were being asked.  She was just all over the place.  I’m having trouble imagining her managing any sort of crisis in real time.

      • bmaz says:

        I am not sure, but it was certainly not intentional! All your comments have been freed up, including this one. We are adjusting a few things here and there, but no clue why you suddenly were caught up. Apologies.

      • orionATL says:

        frank probst, et al. –

        there certainly are some computer oddities showing up these days –

        it would not surprise me if bmaz’s comment about browser differences was part of the proble.

        i read of others here who have had problems i don’t have. i have had problems (notably getting citations to show up here in proper format) others dont. the problems are sporadic and unpredictable. sometimes characters -alpha and non-alpha – show up in between text paras?

        most problems relate to characters we see (letters, etc), but some seem to be control characters.

        none of this is anything super serious.

        in the last few days a different problem showed up – i realized i simply could not dowload the most recent post until a day or so after it had been posted. the posts did show up though. this happened at the same time others were commenting about difficulty accessing the site.

        it certainly could be browsers. i suppose it could be browser receptivity to new styles of presenting graphics. i use a three yr old android machine and prefer the stock browser to chrome, etc. every now and again i get a message that my browser is “out of date” and i should update. what the hell?

        whether security fixes are involved i can’t guess but i don’t see why that should be so. most problems i have seem to be with difficulty controlling characters on the “page”.

        hope this is useful.

  6. john says:

    Question:  As someone who got up to speed on making video at the same time that these videos were made, one question I have is “Are there separate audio tapes that haven’t been destroyed?”

    When recording an interview, you usually have mics in different locations or on each speaker in order to accurately record sound.  It seems to me that because they were interested in verbal or audio information from the person tortured, they should have kept audio files or recordings separate from the video.

    Is this the case?  Has anyone asked about it?  Could it be that video was destroyed, but audio was retained?

    • bmaz says:

      No definitive answer, but my understanding has always been that it was an old school video cam, but not any sophisticated video AND audio setup.

      • john says:

        I don’t mean sophisticated, but just a separate audio recording.  For example, your typical reporter’s hand-held audio recorder, analogue or digital.  Not only is audio difficult to pick up without a separate mic, but video cam tapes have to be changed when they run out every hour or half-hour.  It seems to me that after five hours of recording they would realize that they are not getting the audio that they need if something important is said, or an interpreter is off-site.  Or if they don’t trust a certain interpreter, etc.

        It’s rather difficult for me to believe that they would just rely on audio from a video cam; and habitually record over an audio record.  Destruction of video evidence is more likely and permissible if there is audio backup.

        • bmaz says:

          Understood, and you would “think” that would make sense. But my understanding is still the same.

  7. Frank Probst says:

    No worries! I figured you guys were tinkering around. I generally use “private browser” mode, and I just wanted to know if that was what got me flagged, in which case I could just switch to “regular” mode.

    • Frank Probst says:

      (And I’m not sure why the hell I can sometimes reply directly to posts and sometimes I can’t, but I think that’s a glitch at my end.)

      • bmaz says:

        One of the things we are working on. It is not just you, obviously, as to the reply function, but it does seem to vary across browsers. Personally, I have never had this issue, even when on the front facing portion of the blog. But sure have taken notice of those who have. We are……working on things.

        • harpie says:

          Thanks for all the work, bmaz and team! Do others sometimes have issues with the blockquote function like I do?

  8. SpaceLifeForm says:

    “But, the emails”

    (aside to Trip: I told you)

    Cohen to Davidson, mentioning Mooch

    2018-04-11 04:39 (after Cohen was raided)

    I lost all my contacts as I had to get a new phone. Please send me all your contact info. Also, why did Anthony back out on ABC to do the story? Let me know how you want to communicate

  9. Wm. Boyce says:

    What a disgusting, barbaric and stupid country we have become. This woman (Haspel) should be in fucking jail.

Comments are closed.