The Spectre of Torture: The Gina Haspel Hearings

I’m not going to sit here with the benefit of hindsight and judge the very good people who made hard decisions who were running the agency in very extraordinary circumstances.

— Gina Haspel, May 9, 2018.

It was always going to be the most complicated of hurdles. Having moved Mike Pompeo on to the role of Secretary of State, President Donald Trump had to find a replacement at the Central Intelligence Agency.  Punting for Gina Haspel was an invitation to go into battle, given the Acting Director’s associations with the era of agency waterboarding.

Of specific interest to members of the Senate Intelligence Committee was Haspel’s role in running a covert detention site in Thailand during the blooming violence of the “war on terror” inspired by President George W. Bush’s crusade against jihadis real and fictional.  Details of the site are still sketchy, though the jottings on her conduct are sufficient to cause concern. Hypothetical scenarios were considered; questions on what Haspel as director would do if that man in the White House would insist on torture were submitted.

Given that Trump has shown his enthusiasm in torturing the enemy in purely transactional terms, Haspel was asked what would happen in the event the president gave the order. “Senator, I would advise,” came her response to Republican Senator Susan Collins.  “I do not believe the president would ask me to do that.”  Hardly cause for comfort.

In a performance that seemed…

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