This past week we saw now former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson been fired without any warning. This news was followed by an announcement from President Trump that Mike Pompeo would become the new Secretary of State.
President Donald Trump also announced his decision this week to nominate Gina Haspel, an intelligence official that civil libertarians argue “should be in jail” for her role in the former Bush administration’s torture regime, as the next CIA chief has came off as a torture apologists among America’s political elite.
Her nomination has been met with fierce backlash from politicians and advocacy groups who say her involvement in the brutal torture programs should disqualify her. Haspel joined the CIA in 1985 and ran a CIA “black site” prison in Thailand in 2002 that used “interrogation techniques” like waterboarding.
On Tuesday was Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wy.), who is Dick Cheneys’ daughter, tweeted in defense of the CIA’s torture program at Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who argued the Senate should closely scrutinize Haspel’s role in overseeing the torture of detainees at U.S. black sites overseas.
In openly praising the Bush torture regime and the “brave men and women” who carried it out, Cheney differentiated her position from that of many Washington establishment figures who have defended Haspel’s role in overseeing the Bush torture program this week, on the grounds that she was merely “following orders.”
Wells Dixon from the Center on Constitutional Rights said in a statement that “Gina Haspel disgraced herself by participating in the CIA torture program and the destruction of criminal evidence. We do not believe she should be director of the CIA. Rather, she should be in jail.”
On Thursday Jon Schwartz wrote an op-ed for The Intercept that argues the defense of Haspel offered by Hayden, former Obama officials, and some lawmakers is precisely the defense Nazis used during the Nuremberg trials following the Second World War.
While Nuremberg judges rejected the “Nuremberg defense” as illegitimate, “many members of the Washington, D.C. elite are now stating that it, in fact, is a legitimate defense for American officials who violate international law to claim they were just following orders,” Schwartz writes.
Trevor Timm who is the executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, tweeted out a summary of the principal narratives of torture apologists, all of which serve to undermine all attempts to hold those who oversee violations of international law accountable for their actions.
Establishment politicians on the right and left have already begun to defend Gina Haspel’s past while Civil Liberties groups are ramping up efforts to stop her from being confirmed for the position.
So far only two Republicans have voices out against the nominees. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said he would oppose her nomination, as did Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who was tortured while imprisoned during the Vietnam War, said she needed to “explain the nature” of her involvement in the program.
On Thursday Sen. Dianne Feinstein called on the CIA to declassify documents that detail the role that Gina Haspel played in the George W. Bush administration’s interrogation and detention program.
Feinstein sent a letter to Haspel and outgoing CIA Director Mike Pompeo saying that a full accounting of Haspel’s record in the Bush-era interrogation program is needed to evaluate her record.
Her letter said:
“As we move forward with the nomination process for Ms. Haspel, my fellow senators and I must have the complete picture of Ms. Haspel’s involvement in the program in order to fully and fairly review her record and qualifications, I also believe the American people deserve to know the actual role the person nominated to be the director of the CIA played in what I I’m director, faces a difficult confirmation battle over those actions, with Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky already opposed her nomination and Democrats planning to make that a key issue when she testifies on Capitol Hill.
During her 30-year CIA career, Haspel supervised the interrogation of terrorism suspects in Thailand, and she later was involved with the decision to destroy tapes of CIA interrogations.
Haspel, who is currently deputy CIA director, faces a difficult confirmation battle over those actions, with Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky already opposed her nomination and Democrats planning to make that a key issue when she testifies on Capitol Hill.
So far it isn’t clear what records the Senate will receive as part of Haspel’s confirmation process.