There’s one silver lining to this appointment. To take up the directorship, Haspel has to stand before the Senate and answer, under oath, to the American public. Here are the questions Senators should ask at her confirmation hearings:
Why did you destroy the waterboarding tapes, and what will you do when a controversial order comes around again?
In a sworn deposition, Haspel’s former boss at the CIA, José Rodriguez, admitted he ordered the destruction of the waterboarding tapes “because it would make the CIA look bad” —so bad “it would almost destroy the clandestine services.” He compared the tapes, which apparently showed “vomiting and screaming,” to the Abu Ghraib photos.
Haspel should explain why she carried out the order to destroy the tapes, and whether she even considered the order’s legality. She should also be asked what she would do if given similar orders now. Given President Trump’s cheerleading for prisoner abuse, it’s hardly farfetched to imagine a scenario where Haspel is called into the Oval Office and asked to put her experience with torture to use again.
She should also be asked whether she would give similar orders to destroy evidence as director herself.
If torture was so effective, why hasn’t the CIA brought it back?
The CIA pushed back against the Senate Select Committee’s landmark 2014 Torture Report with an aggressive PR campaign. Former CIA directors took to the airwaves to defend the torture program—and former CIA officials launched a website, ciasavedlives.com, to contest the report. (This notion, that torture “saved lives,” is directly contradicted by the findings of the Torture Report, which says that the CIA repeatedly exaggerated the effectiveness of its torture techniques against other, less coercive interrogation methods.)
Of course it shouldn’t matter: torture is illegal and immoral even if it “works.”
How many women and kids were subject to rendition?
In just two of my cases, the CIA subjected two women (one pregnant), and four children between the ages of 6 and 12 to rendition. At least one other woman (Aafia Siddiqui) was rendered. But there may have been more: Threats were made about detainees’ children. The Senate Torture Report won’t have captured these cases because its terms explicitly excluded detainees who were rendered to third countries. (This is why you didn’t hear more about the known abductions of a pregnant woman and children: they were classified as ‘rendition’ rather than ‘CIA detention’ cases, and so did not form part of the SSCI study.)
How many prisoners died in CIA custody or after CIA renditions to third countries?
The death of Gul Rahman, who was doused with cold water in the CIA’s Salt Pit facility in Afghanistan, is public knowledge. There was also Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi, who was tortured in Egypt into giving false intelligence that was used to justify the Iraq War. (Former Bush Secretary of State Colin Powell later said his speech to the UN, which used some of the false torture intel derived from al-Libi, was a “blot” on his record.) Al-Libi was later rendered to Libya, where he died under mysterious circumstances.