With Haspel Sworn In as CIA Director, Let’s Stop Pretending That Her Atrocities Run Counter to American Values

Gina Haspel prepares to speak while flanked by U.S. President Donald Trump (L) and Vice President Mike Pence, after she was sworn in as CIA director during a swearing-in ceremony at agency headquarters, May 21, 2018 in Langley, Virginia. (Photo: Mark Wilson / Getty Images)Gina Haspel prepares to speak while flanked by President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, after she was sworn in as CIA director at agency headquarters, May 21, 2018, in Langley, Virginia. (Photo: Mark Wilson / Getty Images)

Although Gina Haspel’s nomination received the fewest supporting votes of any previous CIA director nominee, on Monday morning she was sworn in to head the agency. Introducing Haspel, Trump stated that “instead of apologizing for our nation, we are standing up for our nation.” He spoke these words knowing that Haspel oversaw the CIA’s first black site in the “war on terror,” where two Muslim prisoners were waterboarded repeatedly. Why? Because torture is American.

Prior to her confirmation, there seemed to be three common mainstream responses to Haspel’s nomination: 1) The torture she oversaw wasn’t torture/was acceptable under the circumstances; 2) Those who were tortured provided valuable intelligence, therefore justifying this abuse; and 3) Torture is “un-American” because it is morally and legally impermissible.

Torture isn’t “un-American”; accountability for torture is.

To those who fell into the third response, including senators and advocates alike, Haspel was seen as unqualified to lead the CIA precisely because of her role in facilitating torture. But to suggest that this disqualifies someone from a position in a particular agency is to say that her actions were deviations from the norm. On the contrary, history strongly suggests that Haspel’s atrocious past is just what the CIA is looking for and what the US government will endorse. More specifically, and seen through a systemic lens, the torture she oversaw is completely in line with the violence that is condoned, perpetrated and overseen by the CIA in general.

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