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May 17 2018

Our New Torturer-in-Chief

Democratic Quislings including especially Mark Warner, Sellout from Virginia, are hiding behind the fig leaf that she finally said, after Open AND Closed Door hearings where she declined to answer except for weasel words and Filibusters, in a letter that regarding whether she found torture ineffective and immoral, that it was “wrong” and that she would in fact oppose any effort by Donald Trump, who gleefully endorses it and spends what “executive time” he can spare from phone sex with Sean Hannity and Faux and Fiends inventing new and more inhumane and illegal methods of it, to restore the CIA Rendition, Detention, and Torture program.

Her insincerity and mendacity is obvious.

The Democratic Quislings will also whine, “Trump will just nominate someone worse.”

Defeat them too you cowards.

Will Democrats Unite to Block Trump’s Torturer, Gina Haspel, as CIA Chief? If Not, What Do They #Resist?
by Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept
May 8 2018

Haspel’s nomination has become controversial because of her supervision of a CIA black site in Thailand, where detainees were tortured (with heinous methods that extended far beyond “mere” waterboarding), as well as her central role in destroying videotapes of the interrogation sessions at which torture was employed.

Two GOP senators appear unlikely to vote for Haspel: John McCain, whose illness prevents him from attending, and Rand Paul, who has vowed to oppose Haspel (though few things have proven less reliable than Rand Paul’s promises to act on his supposed principles). That means that Democrats have the power to block a torturer and evidence-destroyer from becoming Trump’s CIA director — if they remain united in their opposition.

Will they do so? It is difficult to be optimistic, to put that mildly. The history of Democrats throughout the war on terror is to ensure that just enough members of their caucus join with the GOP majority to ensure passage of even the most extremist pieces of legislation or nominees justified in the name of terrorism or national security.

The ruse Democrats typically use to accomplish these dirty deeds is quite ingenious: The defectors change so that no one member bears the blame for enabling right-wing measures, while the party itself is able to claim that a majority opposed the extremism. In 2010 — as the Bush-era tactic of Democratic defections to the GOP continued under Barack Obama — I referred to this tactic as “Villain Rotation”.

If Haspel is confirmed, it will be because a certain number of Democratic senators join with the GOP caucus to support her, while allowing the Democratic Party to claim it tried to stop her by pointing to a majority of futile Democratic votes against her. That’s why the record of the Democratic Party over the last 17 years — providing whatever amount of support is needed for GOP war on terror policies — makes it difficult to believe that Democrats will unite to kill her nomination.

Despite her role in the CIA torture program — or perhaps because of it — Haspel has been showered with praise, and her confirmation urged, by a bipartisan cast of intelligence officials that includes Obama’s two CIA directors (John Brennan and Leon Panetta), Obama’s director of national intelligence (James Clapper), Panetta’s former chief of staff at the CIA and current MSNBC star Jeremy Bash, and a bevy of Bush-era CIA and military officials who have rehabilitated their reputations among liberals in the Trump era (led by Bush’s CIA and NSA chief Gen. Michael Hayden).

It is not difficult to understand why these Democratic national security officials — despite effectively rebranding themselves as #Resistance icons — are so supportive of Trump’s choice of a torturer to lead the CIA. Part of it is ideological and group loyalty: unlike Trump, Haspel is one them, a member in good standing of the intelligence and military world in which they have spent so much of their lives. Part of what motivates their support is standard tribalistic rank-closing: Yes, she is a torturer, but she’s one of our torturers.

Part of the motive is undoubtedly financial. Many of Haspel’s most vocal supporters from the intelligence community make great profit from doing business with the CIA. Few things would be better for business than earning the gratitude of the agency by publicly agitating for their prized nominee and using their credentials as Good Democrats to creating space for, and applying pressure to, Democratic senators to support her.

If your income and profit depended on maintaining close relations with the government agencies which you once helped manage — as is true of so many of D.C.’s Revolving Door beneficiaries — wouldn’t you also leverage your public credentials to bolster whatever agenda they were supporting at any moment? For so long, Washington’s national security policy has been shaped by profit motives, fueled by legalized Revolving Door corruption, dressed up as counterterrorism and national security imperatives.

This is one of the problems with having TV and cable networks fill their rosters with former military and intelligence officials: They are ideologically and, so often, financially motivated to support those agencies’ worldview and agenda under the guise of “news” — in other words, to spout state propaganda. Of course they are going to use their Democratic Party credentials to support the CIA’s campaign elevate this CIA torturer: They have every ideological and business incentive to do so.

The primary argument being mounted on Haspel’s behalf is not that it was wise or just to torture detainees (the only one who seems to be making that argument is the president who nominated her and Dick Cheney’s daughter, now a pro-torture congresswoman occupying her dad’s old seat). Instead, the defense is the one proffered by the defendants — and rejected by the tribunal — at Nuremberg: Haspel was just following orders.

The primary argument being mounted on Haspel’s behalf is not that it was wise or just to torture detainees (the only one who seems to be making that argument is the president who nominated her and Dick Cheney’s daughter, now a pro-torture congresswoman occupying her dad’s old seat). Instead, the defense is the one proffered by the defendants — and rejected by the tribunal — at Nuremberg: Haspel was just following orders.

There is some factual accuracy to this claim: Haspel was not some rogue torturer. It is absolutely true that she was implementing CIA policy as decreed by George Bush, Dick Cheney and the Justice Department. Like most CIA officials involved in torture, not only was Haspel protected from punishment for that, but she was repeatedly promoted. That’s because torturing helpless detainees is regarded by the CIA as a noble and patriotic act.

That’s why it was so predictably disastrous when Barack Obama elevated to the highest national security positions CIA officials such as John Brennan who had supported and advocated for major parts of the CIA’s torture and rendition program, and why it was even worse when Obama devoted himself to shielding all torturers from all forms of criminal and even civil penalty for their war crimes (even in the face of a treaty, signed by Ronald Reagan, requiring all signatory states to prosecute, not immunize, their torturers no matter their excuse for using it).

While the primary guilt for torture lies with those who did it (namely, top officials of the Bush White House and the CIA which obeyed their criminal orders), Obama’s sustained 8-year campaign to rehabilitate, protect and even empower torturers converted torture from what it should be – a criminal taboo that automatically leads to prosecution – into just another partisan political dispute. As a result, those who advocate it or even did it not only remain in decent company but even get Washington Post columns, MSNBC contracts, and hugs from beloved liberal TV icons.

The outcome of that climate is that one of the people who oversaw some of the worst torture the U.S. has inflicted is about to be elevated to lead the world’s most powerful intelligence agency.

The word “normalize” has become a favorite media cliché in the Trump era, but it applies with full force here: Gina Haspel as CIA Director is what happens when you normalize torturers by barring their prosecution and awarding them with high-level positions in media, politics, and the intelligence community. Torture becomes just another good faith political disagreement, something that at worst “taints” someone’s record – to use the remarkable minimizing word chosen by the Washington Post’s long-time CIA defender David Ignatius – but should be weighed against their good points.

This is American Exceptionalism in its purest, and ugliest, expression: war criminals which lead African nations or enemies of the U.S. are sent to the Hague to be prosecuted, while American war criminals are rewarded, empowered, and praised. When an American tortures, it’s not a crime but a mere “taint,” and certainly not one that should result in denial of promotions let alone handcuffs and a prison cell.

One could certainly look at Gina Haspel that way: she’s the Director the CIA deserves, an accurate reflection of what this agency really is. Having someone who everyone knows is a torturer at the helm of this agency will make it that much harder to sustain the U.S. media propaganda script – led by CIA spokespeople such as NBC’s Ken Dilanian and Ignatius – about the good and noble work this agency does. On some level, it’s healthy for the CIA to finally wear its true identity on its sleeve.

But it’s also clarifying about the charade of Trump and the #Resistance, about the supposed inability of the parties to agree on anything, of the refusal of people from different ideologies to unite. That Trump chose someone with one of the most gruesome torture histories to lead the CIA is certainly revealing about who he is. And if the Democrats cannot unite to stop that, that will be further evidence of what they are. What kind of #Resistance refuses to stop an actual torturer chosen by Donald Trump from being promoted to head the most powerful spy agency in the world?

The CIA’s New Torturer-in-Chief

Trump’s Shameful Choice of ‘Bloody Gina’
The Real News
May 9, 2018

They call her “Bloody Gina,” and for some of her buddies in the torture wing of the CIA and their supporters in Congress, that is meant as a compliment. For a decade after the 9/11 attacks, Haspel served as chief of staff, running the vast network of secret rendition torture prisons around the globe. As a definitive Senate Intelligence Committee report established, torture is not legal, according to U.S. law and international covenants signed by President Ronald Reagan, nor does it produce any actionable information in preventing acts of terror.

After the public revelation of the vast extent of the torture program horrified the world, Haspel deliberately destroyed 92 videotapes depicting the barbaric practice, violating a Justice Department order that the tapes be preserved, and thus clearly obstructing a criminal investigation. Yet in March, Trump chose to nominate Bloody Gina to be the new head of our super-spy agency.

Give Trump credit for consistency: He did campaign on the theme that torture—or “enhanced interrogation,” as his Republican predecessor, George W. Bush, justified it—is only wrong when nations other than our own do it. And by nominating Haspel to head the CIA, Trump is clearly seeking to take torture out of the covert dark side, as former Vice President Dick Cheney termed his revival of the medieval dungeon art; Trump has branded it as a legitimate, made-in-America weapon, wielded by a woman, no less. Trump seemed to be saying, “Label me a bully; I’ll show you what a woman can do!” When it comes to authorizing the near-drowning of shackled prisoners and smashing their heads against prison walls, this lady is the equal of any macho man.

The best witness to the crimes of Bloody Gina is offered by a true hero of the real war against terrorism, former FBI agent Ali Soufan, who is credited with having done the most significant interrogation of captured terrorist suspects. Soufan shunned torture and skillfully gained the confidence of prisoners who went on to provide reliable information.

“It is a matter of public record,”
Soufan wrote in The Atlantic magazine, “that Gina Haspel … played a key role in the agency’s now-defunct program of ‘enhanced interrogation techniques,’ an Orwellian euphemism for a system of violence most Americans would recognize as torture. … I know firsthand how brutal those techniques were—and how counterproductive. … Unsurprisingly, the CIA’s own inspector general concluded that the torture program failed to produce any significant actionable intelligence; and I testified to the same effect under oath in the Senate.”

While there is no evidence that this indelible stain on America’s legacy produced any reliable information, the nomination of Bloody Gina sent a message to the world from this president that torture is to be rewarded. There are many, including Republican Sen. John McCain, who has his own story of being tortured as a prisoner in Vietnam and who raised questions about Haspel’s support of the torture program. “The use of torture compromised our values, stained our national honor, and threatened our historical reputation,”
McCain said.

But even some Democrats may support Haspel’s nomination given that members of their party have been complicit in excusing the heinous practice of torture. After all, it was Democratic President Barack Obama who decided not to prosecute anyone for ordering or committing the torture that is one of the great stains on American history. In fact, Obama prosecuted former CIA agent
John Kiriakou after he revealed the torture program’s existence to a journalist. He did so after President Bush’s memorable statement that the United States “does not torture people!” Ironically, the Bush Justice Department cleared Kiriakou of any charges, while Obama revived them two years later and sent the former agent to prison for 30 months.

Nomination of Torturer for CIA Director Reflects Spy Agency’s Anti-Democratic Dangers

Gina Haspel and How Torture Deceived Us Into Iraq
By Lawrence Wilkerson, The Real News
May 11, 2018

If the public had the full report on torture that Republican Senator Richard Burr has ordered into oblivion, they would know how to respond to President Trump’s nomination of Gina Haspel to be director of the CIA. The report reveals in excruciating detail, first, that torture was used by the United States, and, second, that such criminal acts did not produce good intelligence. In fact, when acted upon, that information created immeasurable tragedy.

I know because the primary case corroborating this truth was one I was central in developing.

Amidst some frustration in early February 2003, with only three days remaining before his presentation at the United Nations, Colin Powell took me aside at CIA headquarters, pointed me into an empty room, closed the door, and told me to sit down. He was trying to contain his frustration and anger but barely succeeding. I had been with him off and on for more than a decade and had never seen him so angry.

What he said to me was this: “All this business about terrorists and Saddam is bullshit. It sounds like Deuteronomy. Mohamad begat Abu-Masa, who begat al-Aman, who begat Abu-Nidal, who begat al-Zubydah, and on and on. There is nothing solid to it. It’s B.S. ”

Since I was the principal person responsible for putting together his UN presentation, I believe he thought I would object. I didn’t.

“I agree,” I responded. “Let’s toss it.”

Somewhat taken aback but clearly mollified, he said, “Good. Do it.”

Within an hour of reassembling in the DCI’s conference room to resume rehearsal that evening, then-CIA director George Tenet left the room for a moment or two. When he returned it was to drop a bombshell on the table.

He sat down, looked at the secretary of state, and said: “Interrogation of a high-level al-Qaeda operative has just revealed that there were significant connections between al-Qaeda and the Mukhabarat [Iraq’s secret service], to include their training of al-Qaeda members in the use of chemical and biological weapons.”

Powell turned to me and said simply: “Put it back in.” I knew precisely what he meant and I did just that. I instructed Miss Davidson not to extract the “terrorists connections” from the Powell presentation, and, in addition, to put in the part about Iraqis training al-Qaeda in the use of chemical and biological weapons. This would become the most powerful part of Powell’s presentation, i.e., that Saddam had a connection to al-Qaeda and thus to the tragic events of 9/11.

At the time there was no mention of torture.

Only later did we learn that the sole source of that bombshell revelation was Ibn al-Shakh al-Libi, and that he had revealed the information under interrogation at the hands of the Egyptians, perhaps one of the most “gifted” states in the practice of torture.

What we did not learn—and what both George Tenet and his deputy John McLaughlin failed to tell us—was that al-Libi had recanted what he had “revealed” shortly after being tortured, and admitted that he would have said anything to stop the torture. Moreover, neither Tenet nor McLaughlin told us that the Defense Intelligence Agency had declared the al-Libi revelations unreliable because of the conditions under which they had been extracted, i.e. torture.

Arguably the most powerful element of Powell’s presentation at the UN was false.

There are many reasons to oppose Gina Haspel’s nomination to be director of the Central Intelligence Agency. She was in charge of a secret prison where torture occurred— in charge of, not just worked there; she destroyed records of that torture; she followed orders that were clearly illegal; she is a 31-year product of the agency she will head, nearly always a bad idea with the CIA.

Ray McGovern: Gina Haspel Supervised Nazi-Era Interrogation Techniques Part 1

Part 2

Jeremy Scahill: Trump CIA Deputy Director Pick Gina Haspel Ran Secret Torture Black Site

Jeremy Scahill: Gina Haspel Should Be Answering for Her Torture Crimes, Not Heading the CIA

“Bloody Gina” Haspel’s Disqualifying Record of CIA Torture
By Amy Goodman & Denis Moynihan, Democracy Now
March 15, 2018

Haspel’s career at the CIA spans more than three decades. Her work is shrouded in secrecy, but two things are well-known: She ran a CIA “black site” where people were brutally tortured, then she helped cover up the torture through the destruction of videotapes, against presidential orders.

These alone should immediately disqualify her for confirmation by the U.S. Senate. “Would I approve waterboarding? You bet your ass I would, in a heartbeat,” Trump boasted from the podium at an Ohio campaign stop in November 2015. He repeated the pledge throughout his campaign, and while president. He suggested a slew of other techniques, including the execution of family members in front of interrogation suspects as an inducement to talk. If Trump gets his way and installs Gina Haspel as CIA director, he will have someone with direct, hands-on experience with torture, a leader in the George W. Bush administration’s notorious torture program.

In 2002, Gina Haspel ran a CIA torture center in Thailand, where al-Qaida suspects were brought to be interrogated. The best-known victim at that site is Abu Zubaydah, who was subjected to a horrific array of torture techniques, all technically authorized through a series of legal memos written by lawyers in the Bush-Cheney administration. Waterboarding, constricted confinement in a box for long periods of time, humiliation, forced feeding through the rectum and numerous other painful procedures were used. In 2005, working as chief of staff to Jose A. Rodriguez Jr., the head of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, Haspel drafted a memo that he sent ordering the destruction of 92 videotapes of those very torture sessions she led, despite a White House directive not to destroy them.

John Kiriakou, a 14-year veteran of the CIA, blew the whistle on the Bush-era torture program and, for speaking out, was imprisoned for two years. He is, to date, the only U.S. official jailed in relation to Bush’s torture program. “We did call her Bloody Gina,” Kiriakou said on the “Democracy Now!” news hour. “Gina was always very quick and very willing to use force … there was a group of officers in the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, when I was serving there, who enjoyed using force. Everybody knew that torture didn’t work.” Kiriakou asked, “Was it moral, and was it ethical, and was it legal? Very clearly no. But Gina and people like Gina did it, I think, because they enjoyed doing it. They tortured just for the sake of torture, not for the sake of gathering information.”

After President Barack Obama’s election, the torture program was dismantled, but those who authorized it, those who oversaw it and the torturers themselves all avoided prosecution. “We need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards,” Obama said in 2009.

“This is where we Europeans come in,” human-rights attorney Wolfgang Kaleck told us on “Democracy Now!” He is founder of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, and last year asked German prosecutors to issue an arrest warrant for Haspel for her role in the torture program. “Torture has to be prosecuted everywhere in the world. We have a number of laws in Europe, and we used these laws in the last 15 years to file numerous criminal complaints in numerous jurisdictions against the torturers of the U.S. … the interesting result of our network’s legal work is that the torturers of the U.S. are not untouchable anymore. They have to take care where they travel.”

Kaleck said of Haspel: “We decided to target her last year, because as a deputy director, she is traveling a lot around the world. We think it’s important that the judicial authorities in Germany, in other European countries, try to investigate her role in Thailand and elsewhere, and that they are prepared — if Gina Haspel travels to our countries — that they arrest her. Notorious torturers shouldn’t be allowed to travel freely through Europe.”

If Gina Haspel Is Confirmed at CIA, the U.S. Would Be Giving Other Nations Green Light to Torture

Key Democrats Back Gina Haspel’s Confirmation as CIA Director, Despite Her Record on Torture

U.S. Navy Reserve Doctor on Gina Haspel Torture Victim: “One of the Most Severely Traumatized Individuals I Have Ever Seen”
by Jeremy Scahill, The Intercept
May 17 2018

“I have evaluated Mr. Abdal Rahim al-Nashiri, as well as close to 20 other men who were tortured as part of the CIA’s RDI [Rendition, Detention, and Interrogation] program. I am one of the only health professionals he has ever talked to about his torture, its effects, and his ongoing suffering,” Dr. Sondra Crosby, a professor of public health at Boston University, wrote to Warner’s legislative director on Monday. “He is irreversibly damaged by torture that was unusually cruel and designed to break him. In my over 20 years of experience treating torture victims from around the world, including Syria, Iraq, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mr. al-Nashiri presents as one of the most severely traumatized individuals I have ever seen.”

Nashiri was snatched in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates in 2002 and “rendered” to Afghanistan by the CIA and eventually taken to the Cat’s Eye prison in Thailand that was run by Haspel from October to December 2002. He was suspected of involvement in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole off the coast of Yemen. He is currently being held at Guantánamo Bay prison.

Despite Crosby’s pleas, Warner and five other Democratic senators have announced their support for Haspel. Warner backed Haspel after she sent him a carefully crafted letter designed to give the impression that she had changed her position on torture while simultaneously continuing to defend its efficacy. “While I won’t condemn those that made these hard calls, and I have noted the valuable intelligence collected, the program ultimately did damage to our officers and our standing in the world,” Haspel wrote. “With the benefit of hindsight and my experience as a senior agency leader, the enhanced interrogation program is not one the CIA should have undertaken.”

Haspel stated that she “would refuse to undertake any proposed activity that was contrary to my moral and ethical values.” But Haspel has refused to renounce torture, her role in its use or to condemn the practice of waterboarding. In fact, under questioning from Sen. Kamala Harris during her confirmation hearing, Haspel explicitly refused to say that the “enhanced interrogation techniques” she oversaw at a secret CIA prison in Thailand were immoral. That fact renders her pledge to Warner meaningless.

“It took her 16 years and the eve of a vote on her confirmation to get even this modest statement, and again, she didn’t say she had any regrets other than it offended some people,” said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., a member of the Intelligence Committee.

Accessory After The Fact

In this case the fact, the crime, is torture.

An accessory is a person who assists in the commission of a crime, but who does not actually participate in the commission of the crime as a joint principal. The distinction between an accessory and a principal is a question of fact and degree:

  • The principal is the one whose acts or omissions, accompanied by the relevant mens rea (Latin for “guilty mind”), are the most immediate cause of the actus reus (Latin for “guilty act”).
  • If two or more people are directly responsible for the actus reus, they can be charged as joint principals. The test to distinguish a joint principal from an accessory is whether the defendant independently contributed to causing the actus reus rather than merely giving generalised and/or limited help and encouragement.

This “help and encouragement” can occur both before and after the crime, in this case torture and murder. Don’t forget it wasn’t just beatings, stress positions, staged executions, isolation, exposure, electric shocks, and waterboarding; it was also forced rectal hydration and feeding, in other words, anal rape.

Nice gal the Senate just confirmed, isn’t she?

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