The CIA: Putting a ‘torturer’ in charge
“There is no way to sugarcoat this,” said Karen Greenberg in NBCNews.com. President Trump’s nominee to replace Mike Pompeo as CIA director was “actively complicit” in torture. Gina Haspel, a 30-year veteran at Langley and current deputy director, ran a CIA “black site” in Thailand in the aftermath of 9/11. At these secret facilities, agents questioned terror suspects using so-called enhanced interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, sleep deprivation, physical beatings, forced nudity, and “confinement in a coffin-like box” filled with insects. At least one suspect, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, was repeatedly waterboarded during Haspel’s tenure, and she participated in “the decision to destroy recordings of the interrogations.” If the Senate confirms Haspel, it’ll be a “tacit endorsement” of her actions, said Michael Cohen in The Boston Globe. With a known “torturer” heading the CIA, other nations will laugh at us when we “trumpet the importance of human rights.” The Senate must reject her.
“Condemnation comes easy in the bright light of day,” said the New York Daily News in an editorial. But people forget the sheer terror that gripped the nation after 9/11. “Those tasked with protecting the country” believed another devastating attack was imminent, and that waterboarding and other brutal interrogation methods were “necessary to pry answers from hardened terrorists.” We have since come to realize this was a mistake, but Haspel was simply carrying out a policy approved at the highest levels of our government. This was a “national failing,” not an individual one, said Rich Lowry in NationalReview.com. Those behind the interrogation program, which was formally abolished under President Obama, should have realized it would “become a black mark” on America’s reputation. But to punish Haspel for following “what she was told were lawful orders” would be a “travesty.”
“There’s one silver lining” to all this, said Cori Crider in TheAtlantic.com. At her Senate confirmation hearing, Haspel will be forced to answer questions the CIA has never properly addressed. How many prisoners died at black sites? Does the CIA still engage in rendition, whereby terror suspects are seized abroad and flown to secret sites for interrogation? If, as the agency claims, torture was “so effective,” why were the tapes destroyed? Haspel’s nomination may spark a much-needed national debate, as the American people finally find out “what was done in their name.”