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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 5/7/18

CIA Nominee Gina Haspel May Testify for First Time in Public About Her Role in Torture at Black Site

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The Trump administration's push to install the CIA's controversial deputy director, Gina Haspel, as the agency's new director faces mounting scrutiny as Haspel is set to begin a Senate confirmation hearing this Wednesday. The Washington Post reports the hearing almost didn't happen, after Haspel attempted to withdraw her name from consideration over opposition to her role in the CIA's torture program under George W. Bush.

Wednesday's hearing will mark the first time Haspel has been forced to speak publicly about her role in the U.S. torture program and the destruction of CIA tapes documenting the torture. Haspel's nomination as CIA director has been "sold like a box of cereal" by the agency, says John Prados, senior fellow at the National Security Archive, but with no transparency about her record. As of now, says Prados, there's no public document listing Haspel's duties in her more than 30 years at the CIA.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We begin today's show with the Trump administration's push to install the CIA's controversial deputy director, Gina Haspel, as the CIA's new director. Haspel is set to begin a Senate confirmation hearing this Wednesday. But according to The Washington Post, the hearing almost didn't happen. The paper reported Sunday Haspel attempted to withdraw her name from consideration over opposition to her role in the CIA's torture program under George W. Bush. Haspel was responsible for running a secret CIA black site in Thailand in 2002, where one prisoner was waterboarded 83 times and tortured in other ways. The former acting director of the CIA confirmed that in 2005 Haspel personally oversaw the destruction of videotapes showing torture at the black site.

Gina Haspel reportedly offered to withdraw her nomination Friday, after some White House officials raised concerns with her about her ability to get confirmed. She was then summoned to the White House to discuss her history with the covert interrogation program. During the meeting, sources says she offered to withdraw. But by Saturday afternoon, Haspel told the White House she would not withdraw.

Also Saturday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders tweeted, "There is no one more qualified to be the first woman to lead the CIA than 30+ year CIA veteran Gina Haspel. Any Democrat who claims to support women's empowerment and our national security but opposes her nomination is a total hypocrite," Sanders tweeted.

Wednesday's hearing will mark the first time Haspel has been forced to speak publicly about her role in the U.S. torture program and the destruction of CIA tapes documenting the torture. Her nomination has been widely criticized by human rights groups. The American Civil Liberties Union called on the CIA to declassify and release every aspect of Haspel's torture record. Last year, German prosecutors were asked to issue an arrest warrant for Haspel for her role in the torture program. Prosecutors are said to be reviewing the request by the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights.

For more, we go to Washington, D.C., where we're joined by John Prados, senior fellow at the National Security Archive, author of about 30 books on international security, diplomatic intelligence, military history. His latest, The Ghosts of Langley: Into the CIA's Heart of Darkness.

John Prados, welcome to Democracy Now! Can you begin by talking about Gina Haspel's record?

JOHN PRADOS: Well, that's the problem -- isn't it? -- is that no one knows Gina Haspel's record. And everyone is asking the agency to release this information for the purpose of her nomination. And that's actually one of the basic problems in this whole situation.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, explain what is known at this point. Explain what he involvement was --

JOHN PRADOS: We have -- OK, sure. We have pieces of documents that identify Ms. Haspel with two specific events, one of them being the torture at the site in Thailand that you mentioned, and the other being the instructions issued by the CIA operations director, Jose Rodriguez, to destroy videotapes that documented CIA torture. At that time -- at the later time, she was the chief of staff to Mr. Rodriguez. So, the documentation that we have has excised from it -- this is typical in declassification work -- the names, the information, the words that would identify in fact what Haspel's exact role was in this situation. And, of course, there would be surrounding documents, like conversations between high-level officials at the agency talking about the result of the destruction of the videotapes, as well as documents that we don't even know about yet that concern Haspel's efforts in Thailand and as chief of staff.

AMY GOODMAN: After Donald Trump announced Gina Haspel as his pick to lead the CIA, to replace Pompeo, who just became secretary of state, Democracy Now! spoke with John Kiriakou, the former CIA analyst who blew the whistle on the torture program --

JOHN PRADOS: Good.

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