Foreign Policy

Gina Haspel is a Torturer. Don’t Let Trump Give Her a Promotion.

Trump just appointed a war criminal to lead the CIA.

On March 13, 2018, a flurry of announcements and tweets revealed a shakeup in Trump’s administration. Rex Tillerson is out at the State Department. He’s being replaced by Mike Pompeo, who until now has been Trump’s head of the CIA. That leaves an open position to lead the spy agency—and Trump has given it to Gina Haspel.

Gina Haspel personally helped torture detainees in a secret CIA-run prison during the Bush administration. She then made sure the video evidence was destroyed.

Torture is illegal in all circumstances, without exception. It was illegal then and it’s illegal now. Gina Haspel carried out crimes but, instead of punishment, she’s getting a promotion. Unless we stop her. It’s up to the Senate to decide whether to confirm or reject Gina Haspel to lead the CIA. We can block her if Democrats vote together. What will they choose?

Haspel is a Torturer

Gina Haspel was in charge of a secret prison in Thailand during the Bush administration. The prison was one of the now-infamous CIA “black sites” that held men who were kidnapped, secretly detained, interrogated and tortured.

It was a crumbling, decrepit makeshift facility abandoned after the Vietnam war, on the edge of the jungle and infested by snakes.

There’s still a lot we don’t know—the CIA continues to hide key details about its secret detention and torture program. But we know enough to conclude that Gina Haspel is a torturer, destroyed the evidence, and is unfit to lead the CIA.

The CIA torture program was so much more cruel than the public was led to believe. Beyond waterboarding (a practice that simulates drowning), detainees were sexually assaulted, beaten, isolated and starved. They faced mock executions, threats to their families, and psychological experimentation. Haspel was the only person with the authority to stop interrogations at the Thailand site. She never exercised that authority.

Alberto Mora, former chief counsel of the Navy in the Bush administration, argues that there’s nothing else senators need to know to make their decision. Haspel is a torturer and is therefore unfit to lead the CIA.

He writes: : “...she can be presumed to have felt the piercing cold, experienced the bleak darkness and heard the deafening, ceaseless music; she directed and then oversaw the application of pain—the blows, the hanging from shackles, the confinement in coffin- or suitcase-size boxes, the suffocation when water was inhaled time and again; and she heard the cries and groans and saw the bruises, the loss of consciousness, and the blood. And all of this not for a moment, but ceaselessly for weeks on end.”

Haspel Covered Up Crimes

The fact that Gina Haspel personally committed war crimes is enough to oppose her nomination. But it’s even worse than that: she also tried to cover up the evidence.

She advocated burning the black site in Thailand to the ground after it was closed down. And despite orders to the contrary, she wrote a cable instructing that all video evidence be destroyed. She even included instructions for using industrial-strength shredders.

Stop Gina Haspel From Leading the CIA

Gina Haspel was already passed over for a promotion within the CIA once before because of her tortured past.

There is no justification for her to become the head of the entire agency now. Torture is illegal under both domestic and international law, with no exceptions. It is not an excuse to say she was “following orders”—illegal orders are still illegal. But Trump has said “torture works” and he’d like to bring it back. Now he’s appointed an actual torturer to lead the agency that could bring it back.

The Senate torture report (an executive summary was released in 2014) tells us that the CIA committed crimes that went beyond what they were authorized to do, lied to Congress, the public and the Administration both about the brutality and the effectiveness—and they were never held accountable. It’s too dangerous to let Gina Haspel lead that agency under Trump.

Each senator must immediately commit publicly to voting against Haspel, full stop.


Call Your Senators Now!
Caller: Hi, My name is [name] and I’m a constituent from [part of state] calling about Gina Haspel’s nomination as head of the CIA. I want Senator [name] to immediately and publicly commit to opposing this nomination. Gina Haspel carried out torture and destroyed the evidence. She is completely unqualified to lead the CIA. Will Senator [name] oppose her?

[If staffer says yes]

Staffer: Thank you for calling. Senator [name] shares your concerns and will be voting against this nomination.

Caller: I’m very glad to hear that—will [he/she] be making a public statement condemning this choice and urging [his/her] colleagues to oppose, as well?

Staffer: I can relay that to my boss.

Caller: Please do. Haspel is an unacceptable choice and it’s important for the senator not just to oppose her, but to use [his/her] platform to increase pressure for other senators. I’ll be watching for [his/her] statements.

[If staffer says no]

Staffer: Thank you for calling. Senator [name] supports Gina Haspel’s nomination and admires her decades of public service. She did what she was asked to do by her country, in order to keep people safe.

Caller: That’s not acceptable. Torture was, and is, illegal no matter what. There are no exceptions and it’s a crime. “Following orders” is not a justification. Additionally, her cover-up of the crimes through destruction of video evidence is enough in itself for the Senator to oppose her. I urge [him/her] to re-think his position.

Staffer: I’ll relay that to the boss.

Caller: Yes, please do. I am very concerned about this nomination and will be checking back to see if the senator has changed [his/her] position.