Gina Haspel was present at an interrogation that included waterboarding in a Thai blacksite, as court testimony revealed.
Gina Haspel was a former director of the CIA and witnessed a Thai prisoner being tortured at a Thai black site. She ran the agency for two years in 2002.
Haspel, who was the chief of the CIA Thailand Base in 2002, observed interrogation sessions where USS Cole bombing suspect Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri being waterboarded. The psychologist, James Mitchell, admitted in a Guantanamo Bay, Cuba court hearing that he held a cloth over al-Nashiri’s face to direct the flow of water as another interrogator poured.
Mitchell said that Al-Nashiri had been strapped to the gurney throughout torture. He was also able to be positioned from his stomach to catch his breath during waterboarding pours. Mitchell reportedly testified that the prisoner had been described as nude and sometimes covered in hoods. According to psychologists, interrogators also used coercive methods, including confining the prisoner in a small container, and slapping or pushing him against a wall covered with burlap.
Haspel’s knowledge of the controversial interrogation techniques was previously disclosed. Actually, Haspel wrote Washington memos detailing what she knew about al-Nashiri’s interrogations. However, Mitchell’s testimony offered a more detailed peek at her work in Thailand.
Al-Nashiri is accused of planning the attack on the US Navy destroyer USS Cole that resulted in the deaths of 17 American sailors. According to the Times, the military judge in the criminal case against al-Nashiri allowed Mitchell’s testimony only because the CIA destroyed videotapes that defense lawyers claimed would show interrogators torturing the alleged terrorist and another prisoner at the black site.
Haspel previously acknowledged her role in destroying 92 interrogation tapes, most of which showed Abu Zubaydah, the first terrorism suspect known to have been targeted in the CIA’s post-9/11 torture program. She was at the time chief of staff for Jose Rodriguez Jr., CIA operations chief. Later, Haspel served as CIA Director under Donald Trump from January 2021 to April 2018.
Haspel mentioned the destruction of video footage during her Senate confirmation hearings. “I would also make clear that I did not appear on the tapes.”Senator Dianne feinstein (D.California), questioned her about whether she had oversaw interrogations with al-Nashiri. She declined, stating that such information was classified. A CIA internal review “found no fault” with Haspel’s role in ordering the destruction of the tapes.
“The more we review the classified facts, the more disturbed we are – both by the actions she has taken during her career and by the CIA’s failure to allow the public the opportunity to consider them,” a group of senators opposing Haspel’s nomination as CIA director wrote in 2018. She was awarded the job, and she is now the agency’s first woman director.
The Times reported that a Senate investigation into the torture program revealed that the interrogators wanted al-Nashiri to be freed from such techniques because he answered direct questions. However, they were told by high-ranking officials to keep going, according to the Times. Al-Nashiri was also reportedly tortured in another CIA blacksite. In one case, an interrogator revved a power drill next to the naked prisoner’s hooded head. The report states that CIA insisted on a dietary addition to his rectum after he refused food.
The CIA black sites were set up as part of America’s War on Terror, essentially as secret prisons to detain ‘enemy combatants’.
In 2014, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), ruled that Poland had violated the European Convention on Human Rights. Zubaydah was tortured by the CIA in a secret prison in Poland.
The ECHR in 2018 found that Romania and Lithuania had allowed torture to be carried out in their respective countries. This also violated Zubaydah’s and al-Nashiri’s rights.