As chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Richard Burr should oppose the nomination of Gina Haspel, the former chief of a secret U.S. detention facility in Thailand, to become the next CIA director. As should the other 99 senators.
According to news reports, Haspel headed the secret CIA prison in Thailand for a period in 2002 while at least one prisoner, Abd Al-Rahim Al-Nashiri, was repeatedly waterboarded. It also appears Haspel played a leading role in destroying 92 CIA videotapes of the torture sessions, despite a judge’s order and in violation of the Federal Records Act.
She has been described by at least one former fellow CIA official as “intimately” involved in the design and oversight of the torture program.
To be sure, we don’t know the precise details of her role. That is due, in part, to the refusal to declassify the more than 6,700-page Senate Intelligence Committee report on post-9/11 CIA torture. To date, only the summary has been declassified, and with heavy redactions. The summary states that CIA officials lied to lawmakers about the program. And it concludes torture “was not an effective means of obtaining accurate information.” While significant, the summary provides only a limited window on the program. The failure to declassify the remainder leaves the public in the dark on much -- including the specifics of Haspel’s role.
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This week, the Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats, refused to commit to declassifying materials on Haspel’s role in both torture and destruction of evidence. He did say Haspel’s record would be “fully explained.” But without complete declassification, we fear a misleading picture will be presented to ensure her confirmation.
As Chair of Senate Intelligence, Sen. Burr is in a unique position to seek release of the details on Haspel’s torture record. He also should push for declassification of the entire report.
This is important for another reason, too. We are the co-chairs of the North Carolina Commission of Inquiry on Torture, a non-governmental truth commission that is investigating North Carolina’s role in the torture and rendition program. One of our main tasks is to understand how private North Carolina contractors supported the CIA system of renditions and torture that Haspel apparently helped oversee.
We have found that some prisoners tortured in the black site that Haspel directly ran, and at others over which she had authority, were transported in planes based in Smithfield and Kinston. Documentation shows at least 49 prisoners were flown for the CIA by Aero Contractors, a company based at the Johnston County Airport.
We fear Haspel’s confirmation would be viewed as validation of the torture program and could lead to its recurrence. Much of the public-private infrastructure is still intact. Aero Contractors continues to operate from its base in Johnston County with the apparent support of local leaders.
We wrote previously to Sen. Burr requesting release of the entire Senate report. We again call for this. With so much at stake, allow the Senate and the public to make an informed judgment. Declassify and release the full “torture report.” And unless the record is starkly different than what has been reported, vote no on Haspel’s nomination as CIA Director.