gina haspel
CIA Deputy Director Gina Haspel. Credit: OSS Society/YouTube

John Kiriakou blew the whistle on the CIA’s torture program and all he got for thanks was a 23 month long visit to the hoosegow. He doesn’t think that Gina Haspel should be confirmed as the next CIA Director:

I was inside the CIA’s Langley, Va., headquarters on Sept. 11, 2001. Like all Americans, I was traumatized, and I volunteered to go overseas to help bring al-Qaeda’s leaders to justice. I headed counterterrorism operations in Pakistan from January to May 2002. My team captured dozens of al-Qaeda fighters, including senior training-camp commanders. One of the fighters whom I played an integral role in capturing was Abu Zubaida, mistakenly thought at the time to be the third-ranking person in the militant group.

By that May, the CIA had decided to torture him. When I returned to CIA headquarters that month, a senior officer in the Counterterrorism Center asked me if I wanted to be “trained in the use of enhanced interrogation techniques.” I had never heard the term, so I asked what it meant. After a brief explanation, I declined. I said that I had a moral and ethical problem with torture and that — the judgment of the Justice Department notwithstanding — I thought it was illegal.

Unfortunately, there were plenty of people in the U.S. government who were all too willing to allow the practice to go on. One of them was Gina Haspel, whom President Trump nominated Tuesday as the CIA’s next director.

I’m not going to pretend to know the truth about Haspel’s 33 year career in intelligence. When people in that field recommend her, I’m sure they are sincere and that she has performed most of her duties in a laudable manner.

I oppose her nomination irrespective of her overall record. And this is because what this country needs to do is to make it as clear as possible that torturing people was a mistake. It was an anomaly borne of the panic and stress of the devastating 9/11 attacks, but it’s contrary to our principles. Far from wanting to excuse the torture program or merely discontinue it, we want to argue with some credibility that other nations should respect people’s human rights and dignity and not mistreat people in their custody and at their mercy.

We cannot do that if one of the people most responsible for the torture and the cover-up is elevated to our top intelligence position. It doesn’t matter in the least to me whether she’d be good at the job or not. It doesn’t matter at all to me whether all the details about her role have been reported accurately (they haven’t been) because the degree of her culpability is not the point here. I don’t care that others above her in rank were more responsible and should be punished first before she takes her lashes. She’s not entitled to any position in government and not getting the directorship isn’t the same thing as going to jail when her bosses get off scot-free.

What matters most here is the appearance it creates, but it’s an appearance based in cold hard facts. If she becomes the new CIA Director, then we aren’t remotely serious or remorseful, and correcting our mistakes and repairing our image are clearly not among our priorities.

So, people in the intelligence community can vouch for her all they want. For me, it will fall on deaf ears. I’m willing to tolerate her avoiding a prison sentence, but that’s only because others should be behind bars before the prosecutors come for her. In truth, it’s only for practical reasons the torturers got a mulligan, and that practicality came at a high price for our nation’s reputation and moral credibility. Haspel’s confirmation would be more proof, as if we needed it, that the price of letting torturers off the hook has been too high.

Her confirmation must be opposed.

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Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at