On Wednesday, Gina Haspel, President Donald Trump’s nomination to head the CIA, made her first appearance before a Senate committee hearing, and she sounded like and looked the part of a sweet, cookie-baking grandmother who wants nothing more than to “Make America great again.” But make no mistake about it; during her 33 years with the CIA, in the Directorate of Operations unit, Haspel oversaw some top secret spying missions around the globe and the horrendous torture of prisoners.
During the George W. Bush administration, Haspel oversaw a secret “black site” prison in Thailand in which prisoners were subjected to torturous interrogation methods including waterboarding, sleep deprivation and “walling,” where prisoners were repeatedly thrown into walls.
If that wasn’t bad enough, internal CIA documents obtained by BuzzFeed showed that Haspel was involved in the destruction of nearly 100 videotapes reportedly showing the abuse of two prisoners, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. Haspel contends that the destroyed videotapes were only of one prisoner.
In March 2004, Fatima Boudchar was abducted and put in a secret U.S. prison in Thailand. According to records, Haspel was in charge of a secret prison in Thailand in 2002. Since the CIA is, well, the CIA, there is no way to confirm whether Haspel was, in fact, in charge of the prison where Boudchar was kept. Boudchar wrote a first-person account of her experience as a prisoner for the New York Times:
I have no idea how long I was in the Thai secret prison because no one would let me sleep. The cell was white and stark, with nothing in it but a camera and hooks on the wall. The masked abductors were waiting. I was terrified. They chained me to the hooks. Because I was midway through my pregnancy, I could barely move or sit.
Some of what they did to me in that prison was so awful I can’t talk about it. They hit me in the abdomen just where the baby was. To move me, they bound me to a stretcher from head to toe, like a mummy. I was sure I would shortly be killed.
For the rendition flight to Libya, I was taped to a stretcher again. The tape caught the corner of my eye. It stayed that way, my eye taped open, tears streaming down my face, for more than 14 hours.
Shortly after she was tortured, she gave birth to her baby.
“After what the CIA did to me,” Boudchar writes, “my baby weighed 4 pounds.”
Haspel is a thug. Congress knows it. The president knows it and likes it. Trump not only has been adamant that waterboarding works but also believes that it’s necessary.
“When ISIS [also known as the Islamic State group] is doing things that nobody has ever heard of since medieval times, would I feel strongly about waterboarding?” Trump said during an interview shortly after he took office. “As far as I’m concerned, we have to fight fire with fire.”
Trump not only believes that torture works but also wants to change the law to allow for it again.
Which all leads to Haspel’s Senate confirmation hearing and her utter defiance and refusal to answer direct questions about her feelings on torture.
When Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) asked Haspel, “Do you believe that the previous interrogation techniques were immoral?” Haspel refused to answer yes or no.
Watch the full exchange below, since it’s awesome, and not because Haspel dances more than Donald Glover in “This Is America,” but because Harris holds Haspel’s feet to the flame and tries her best to get her to answer whether or not she believes that torture is immoral.
What Haspel did say, although it wasn’t an answer to Harris’ question, was actually more telling. Haspel basically explained that she was and is a good soldier who was following the law of the time. In short, should Trump push to bring back torture, guess who’d be in line with her commander?
Say what you will about Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)—and believe me, I’m right there with you—the man was tortured after being captured during the Vietnam War and has been the leading voice against torture, and he doesn’t believe that Haspel has reformed her beliefs.
McCain is against confirming Haspel to run the CIA because he knows what Congress and the president know: Haspel is a thug disguised as a grandma, but she’s absolutely a thug.