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Why Can't We Talk About the T-Word with Trump's CIA Pick?

March 16, 2018 in Blogs

By Jefferson Morley, AlterNet

How torture became unspeakable yet defensible in Washington.

The key to defending the practice of torture is never to use the word.

When the Bush administration wanted to torture suspected terrorists after 9/11, it adopted “enhanced interrogation techniques.” When President Obama decided not to investigate Bush's torture regime, he said it was “time to look forward, not backwards.”

Now that deputy CIA director Gina Haspel, a leading participant in the torture regime, has been nominated to run the agency, this linguistic evasion is returning with a vengeance. As AlterNet and other news sites provide abundant documentation of Haspel’s role as a torturer, the word recedes from the Washington debate over her nomination. 

The Cipher Brief, a blog run by former U.S. intelligence officials, solicited comments on Haspel’s nomination from six former U.S. officials. All of them praised her. All but one alluded to her record of torture. All avoided using the T-word. 

One cited a “confirmation issue.” Another predicted she would be challenged on her “connection with the CIA rendition and black site program.” A third referred to her “managing a detention facility.” A fourth said Haspel had “hurdles to overcome.” A fifth cited her role in the “former detention and interrogation program.”

None disputed Haspel’s role in torturing suspected terrorists, because there is no dispute. The executive summary of a still-classified Senate Intelligence Committee report describes the torture regime in (literally) agonizing detail at “Detention Site Green,” the code name for the CIA detention facility in Thailand that Haspel ran starting in July 2002.

Haspel, the agency now says, did not oversee the torture of Abu Zubaydah, a Saudi member of al-Qaeda who was arrested in Pakistan in 2002. But she knew about it and destroyed evidence of it. What did she know?

A declassified CIA memo, obtained by the ACLU, details the torture techniques that the base proposed for Abu Zubaydah before Haspel arrived. They included:

“attention grasp, walling technique, facial hold, facial or insult slap, cramped confinement, wallstanding, stress position, sleep deprivation, waterboard ONE LINE REDACTED and mock burials. To this was added the placement of harmless insects …read more


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