The Spy in the Torture Chamber

Gina Haspel: Out of the Black But Still in the Dark

Gina Haspel testifies at her confirmation hearing to become director of the CIA, May 9, 2018. (CBS News)

Did Agent Zula Nine Alpha lurk in the shadows of the black site in Thailand she ran as the two torture shrinks strapped a man down and poured water down his throat until he felt as if he was drowning, over and over again? Or did she step into the harsh interrogation light to let the terrified man glimpse the face of the woman who was supervising his torments? He had been stripped naked; every part of his body exposed before this silent, severe woman. Was it part of the plan? To ratchet up the psychological humiliation? To squeeze him from every angle until he broke?

The man’s name is Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. He is a Saudi, who the CIA fingered as an Al Qaeda member who helped plan the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, while it was docked in the harbor at Aden in Yemen. Two years later, Al-Nashiri was nabbed in Dubai by a CIA snatch-and-grab unit and hustled off to a CIA prison in Afghanistan. For the next four years, al-Nashiri was shuffled from one CIA black site to another: Thailand, Poland, Afghanistan and Romania. At each stop he was interrogated, threatened, abused, and tortured. Then in 2006, al-Nashiri was sent to Guantanamo, where he remains.

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Jeffrey St. Clair is editor of CounterPunch. His most recent book is An Orgy of Thieves: Neoliberalism and Its Discontents (with Alexander Cockburn). He can be reached at: or on Twitter @JeffreyStClair3

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