FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Return of the Torturers: Back to the Crime Scenes of the Past

The Trump administration has signaled that it is willing to return to the heinous crimes of the past two decades, including torture and abuse, secret prisons, and extraordinary renditions. The appointment of Gina Haspel as the deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency clearly indicates that the use of torture, including the use of waterboarding, which has been endorsed by the President, the national security advisor, and the CIA director, could once again be a major part of the U.S. campaign against international terrorism.

Haspel was a central figure in the CIA’s criminal behavior during the Bush administration.  She ran the CIA’s first secret prison in Thailand, where the brutal interrogations of Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri took place.  No intelligence was gleaned from the use of torture in these interrogations.  When the head of the Counterterrorism Center, Jose Rodriguez, ordered the destruction of the videotapes of the torture, it was Haspel who drafted the cable that ordered the destruction.  This was clearly evidence of obstruction of justice in view of the investigation of torture and abuse that had already begun.

When former CIA director John Brennan tried to make Haspel the deputy director for operations in 2013, the chairwoman of the Senate intelligence committee, Dianne Feinstein, blocked her assignment.  Currently, the Senate intelligence committee is under the stewardship of Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), who has blocked all attempts to circulate Feinstein’s authoritative account of the CIA torture program.  And the current CIA director, Mike Pompeo, does not even believe that waterboarding is an act of torture and has referred to those who conducted waterboarding as “patriots.”

Haspel was also a leading voice for extraordinary renditions, which involved the “capture” or kidnapping of individuals suspected of acts of terrorism.  When the CIA concluded that these victims had no important information to reveal, they were turned over to foreign intelligence services, such as those in Syria and Jordan, that conducted their own methods of torture and abuse.

Nevertheless, the New York Times refers to the promotion for Haspel as an example of the CIA’s “ambivalent attitude” toward torture and abuse because former intelligence officials, such as intelligence tsar James Clapper and acting director Michael Morell, have praised the appointment.  But Clapper has been known to lie to the Senate intelligence committee about the massive surveillance program of the National Security Agency, and Morell used his own book to lie about the so-called intelligence that was gleaned from so-called “extraordinary interrogation techniques.”

There is no ambivalence here.  This is simply one more example of the CIA promoting those officers who committed crimes on behalf of the agency.  The intelligence officers who were held accountable in the Inspector General’s report on the 9/11 intelligence failure ultimately received promotions and rewards from the agency.  The intelligence officers who participated in the politicization of intelligence in the 1980s similarly received promotions and rewards.  And now we have another example of the “worst of the worst” at the CIA becoming the second most important official of our leading civilian intelligence agency.  There is no better way to create cynicism within the intelligence community and the larger political community than to reward the very people who tarnish the moral compass of the CIA.

The title character of John le Carre’s The Honorable Schoolboy never wanted to deal with problems of ethics and morality.  “Point me and I’ll march,” he said to spymaster George Smiley.  “Tell me the shots, I’ll play them,” he added.  Once again, the CIA is being led by officials who have never accepted or understood the Supreme Court’s 2006 decision in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld that declared CIA’s torture program a violation of Geneva Conventions.  This decision should have made those who conducted torture subject to the federal War Crimes Act.  Perhaps if former president Barack Obama had sought accountability and responsibility for the crimes of torture, then we would not be witness to the return of war criminals to positions of responsibility.

More articles by:

Melvin A. Goodman is a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy and a professor of government at Johns Hopkins University.  A former CIA analyst, Goodman is the author of Failure of Intelligence: The Decline and Fall of the CIA and National Insecurity: The Cost of American Militarism. His latest book is A Whistleblower at the CIA. (City Lights Publishers, 2017).  Goodman is the national security columnist for counterpunch.org.

April 26, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
As Trump Berates Iran, His Options are Limited
Daniel Warner
From May 1968 to May 2018: Politics and Student Strikes
Simone Chun – Kevin Martin
Diplomacy in Korea and the Hope It Inspires
George Wuerthner
The Attack on Wilderness From Environmentalists
CJ Hopkins
The League of Assad-Loving Conspiracy Theorists
Richard Schuberth
“MeToo” and the Liberation of Sex
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Sacred Assemblies in Baghdad
Dean Baker
Exonerating Bad Economic Policy for Trump’s Win
Vern Loomis
The 17 Gun Salute
Gary Leupp
What It Means When the U.S. President Conspicuously and Publicly Removes a Speck of Dandruff from the French President’s Lapel
Robby Sherwin
The Hat
April 25, 2018
Stanley L. Cohen
Selective Outrage
Dan Kovalik
The Empire Turns Its Sights on Nicaragua – Again!
Joseph Essertier
The Abductees of Japan and Korea
Ramzy Baroud
The Ghost of Herut: Einstein on Israel, 70 Years Ago
W. T. Whitney
Imprisoned FARC Leader Faces Extradition: Still No Peace in Colombia
Manuel E. Yepe
Washington’s Attack on Syria Was a Mockery of the World
John White
My Silent Pain for Toronto and the World
Dean Baker
Bad Projections: the Federal Reserve, the IMF and Unemployment
David Schultz
Why Donald Trump Should Not be Allowed to Pardon Michael Cohen, His Friends, or Family Members
Mel Gurtov
Will Abe Shinzo “Make Japan Great Again”?
Binoy Kampmark
Enoch Powell: Blood Speeches and Anniversaries
Frank Scott
Weapons and Walls
April 24, 2018
Carl Boggs
Russia and the War Party
William A. Cohn
Carnage Unleashed: the Pentagon and the AUMF
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
The Racist Culture of Canadian Hockey
María Julia Bertomeu
On Angers, Disgusts and Nauseas
Nick Pemberton
How To Buy A Seat In Congress 101
Ron Jacobs
Resisting the Military-Now More Than Ever
Paul Bentley
A Velvet Revolution Turns Bloody? Ten Dead in Toronto
Sonali Kolhatkar
The Left, Syria and Fake News
Manuel E. Yepe
The Confirmation of Democracy in Cuba
Peter Montgomery
Christian Nationalism: Good for Politicians, Bad for America and the World
Ted Rall
Bad Drones
Jill Richardson
The Latest Attack on Food Stamps
Andrew Stewart
What Kind of Unionism is This?
Ellen Brown
Fox in the Hen House: Why Interest Rates Are Rising
April 23, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
In Middle East Wars It Pays to be Skeptical
Thomas Knapp
Just When You Thought “Russiagate” Couldn’t Get Any Sillier …
Gregory Barrett
The Moral Mask
Robert Hunziker
Chemical Madness!
David Swanson
Senator Tim Kaine’s Brief Run-In With the Law
Dave Lindorff
Starbucks Has a Racism Problem
Uri Avnery
The Great Day
Nyla Ali Khan
Girls Reduced to Being Repositories of Communal and Religious Identities in Kashmir
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail