Medea Benjamin and Marcy Winograd
It was painful enough to live through the U.S invasion of Iraq that caused untold devastation and human misery for no justifiable reason.
Now we are again reminded of the grim Bush legacy with President-elect Biden's nomination of Avril Haines for Director of National Intelligence. Haines, who has an inside-the-beltway reputation for being nice and soft spoken, was a little too nice to CIA agents who hacked the computers of Senate Intelligence Committee investigators looking into the CIA use of torture--waterboarding, sleep deprivation, hypothermia, rectal feeding, whippings, sexual humiliation--at prisons in Guatanamo and Afghanistan during the Bush War on Terror.
As Deputy Director of the CIA in the Obama administration, Haines chose not to discipline those CIA hackers who violated the separation of powers, crossing the boundary line and beaching the firewall between the executive and legislative branches. To add insult to injury, Haines led the team that redacted an exhaustive 5-year, 6,000-page Senate Intelligence Committee Report on Torture until it was reduced to a censored, 500-page summary smeared with black ink to cover up the screaming horrors and shield those responsible.
That's why torture survivors and their advocates have just released a damning Open Letter urging Senators to vote NO on Haines when her nomination lands in their laps in mid-January or February after the cyber pomp and circumstance of a virtual Presidential inauguration. The letter, signed by several decade-long detainee/survivors of torture at Guantanamo, also objects to the possible nomination of Mike Morell, a CIA analyst under Bush, for CIA Director.
"Elevating torture apologists to a leadership position within the Biden administration will damage the USA's standing and give the world's dictators succor and comfort," said
Djamel Ameziane, a Guantanamo detainee from Algeria who was tortured and held without charge from 2002-2013, until he was finally released from prison.
Morell's traction may be on the wane with the Biden administration, however, after progressives launched a campaign against Morell, the former Deputy and Acting CIA Director under Obama, and Senator Ron Wydena powerful Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committeecalled him a "torture apologist" and said his appointment to head the CIA was a "non starter."
Objections to Morell include his defense of the Agency's "enhanced interrogation" practices: mock drownings, "walling" -- repeatedly slamming prisoners against a wall, whipping detainees with electrical cords, dumping freezing cold water on detainees naked except for diapers.
Morell refused to call these practices torture. "I don't like calling it torture for one simple reason: to call it torture says my guys were torturers," Morell admitted to Vice reporters in 2015. "I'm gonna defend my guys till my last breath," said Morell, who put his CIA buddies above truth, the law and basic decency.
Morell doesn't call it torture, but Guantanamo survivor Moazzam Begg knows exactly what torture is. Begg, who signed a false confession while tortured, is Outreach Director for CAGE, a UK-based organization serving communities hard hit by the War on Terror. Begg recollects his days in US custody. "They tied me up with my hands behind my back to my legs, kicked me in the head, kicked me in the back, threatened to take me to Egypt to be tortured, to be raped, to be electrocuted. They had a woman screaming in the next room whom I believed at that time was my wife. They bought pictures of my children and told me I would never see them again."
Contrary to the Senate report and the CIA's own internal review, Morell justified the torture by insisting that it was effective in thwarting future plots against Americans. Senate staffers said Morell got names, dates and facts all mixed up, and was dead wrong on the effectiveness of torture.
Torture Survivor and award-winning writer Mansoor Adayfi, sold to US forces in Afghanistan for bounty money and imprisoned without charge at Guantanamo for 14 years, knows firsthand that torture doesn't work. "In Guantanamo, when they put you under very bad circumstanceslike 72 hours under very cold air conditioning, and you are tied to the ground and someone comes and pours cold water on youyou are going to tell them whatever they want you to say. I will sign anything, I will admit anything!"
In addition to soft-pedaling the use of torture, Morell helped shield the abusers from accountability by defending the CIA's 2005 destruction of nearly 90 videotapes of the brutal interrogation of Abu Zubaydah and other detainees in CIA black sites.
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