Retired US generals question Trump's pick for CIA chief

Washington, April 24
As many as 109 retired US Generals and admirals on Monday issued a joint letter urging the US Senate to "examine closely" President Donald Trump's nominee Gina Haspel for CIA Director over her role in dealing with US overseas "black sites" where terror suspects were tortured last decade.

"We write to express our profound concern about the nomination of Gina Haspel to be Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). We urge you to examine closely the full extent of Haspel's involvement in the rendition, detention, and interrogation program," said the letter posted on Human Rights First.

"Should you find that she played any role in carrying out, supervising, or directing the torture or abuse of people in US custody, or the destruction of evidence relating to these activities, we urge you to reject her nomination," the former US military leaders wrote, Xinhua reported.

"We do not accept efforts to excuse her actions relating to torture and other unlawful abuse of detainees by offering that she was 'just following orders', or that shock from the 9/11 terrorist attacks should excuse illegal and unethical conduct," they said.

In the letter, the former US military leaders also suggested senators ask for a full declassification, with necessary redactions, of information related to Haspel's involvement in the Bush administration's "enhanced interrogation" programs which allow torture and other unlawful abuse of detainees.

"If the record shows that Haspel played any role in carrying out, supervising, or directing any form of torture or detainee abuse, or the destruction of evidence relating to these activities, we urge you to reject her nomination," the retired generals and admirals wrote.

The letter cites reports that Haspel, who has worked at the CIA since 1985, ran a CIA "black site" at which at least one detainee, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, was repeatedly tortured, including by waterboarding.

Furthermore, in 2005, Haspel was alleged to have played a key role in the destruction of videotapes documenting these interrogations within the CIA. The decision was made by Jose Rodriguez, then head of the CIA clandestine service. Haspel served as his chief of staff at the time.

The CIA declassified a memo last week and concluded Haspel "acted appropriately" in carrying out the orders to destroy these videotapes as evidence. Human Rights First said as many as 92 videotapes of individuals in US custody being subjected to torture were destroyed under the order, despite federal court orders requiring preservation of all records pertaining to detainee abuse.

Haspel is currently the deputy director of the CIA and was nominated in March to replace CIA Director Mike Pompeo, Trump's pick for the next Secretary of State. Her confirmation hearing in the Senate has been set for May 9.

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