It is a matter of public record that Gina Haspel, President Trump’s nominee to be the next director of the CIA, played a key role in the agency’s now-defunct program of “enhanced interrogation techniques”—an Orwellian euphemism for a system of violence most Americans would recognize as torture. Haspel oversaw a black site in the Bush era. At least one detainee, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, was tortured during her tenure.*
I know firsthand how brutal these techniques were—and how counterproductive. In 2002, I interrogated an al-Qaeda associate named Abu Zubaydah. Using tried-and-true nonviolent interrogation methods, we extracted a great deal of valuable intelligence from Zubaydah—including the identities of the 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the would-be “dirty bomber” Jose Padilla, both of whom would be arrested shortly after. Yet some officials later tried to manipulate the record to make it seem as if this intelligence was gained through torture, even going so far as to misstate the date of Padilla’s arrest, which in fact occurred before Zubaydah or any other al-Qaeda suspect was waterboarded.
Unsurprisingly, the CIA’s own inspector general concluded that the torture program failed to produce any significant actionable intelligence; and I testified to the same effect under oath in the Senate. What’s worse, the program has gotten in the way of justice: To this day, we cannot prosecute terrorists such as the masterminds behind the USS Cole and 9/11 attacks, in large part because the evidence against them is tainted by torture.