Gina Haspel was confirmed by the Senate to be director of the CIA on May 17th. But the public never got to see the memos that she wrote and authorized about the brutal torture of Al Qaeda suspects at a CIA black site that she oversaw in Thailand in 2002. Until now.
The National Security Archive filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the cables on April 16, 2018, after the world learned that President Trump had nominated Gina Haspel for the top job at the CIA. The Archive only learned about the cables from a footnote in the Senate Intelligence Committee torture report, which declassified in 2014. The Archive requested expedited processing for the FOIA request, a special provision of the FOIA law meant for when documents are clearly in the public interest. Expedited processing was denied and Haspel was confirmed by the Senate before they could be released.
The National Security Archive filed a lawsuit and won, leading to today’s release of the documents from 2002. And despite being heavily redacted, they’re pretty shocking, both for their explicit descriptions of torture, and their sometimes grotesquely poetic language to describe the scene.
One cable describes how one interrogator, under Gina Haspel’s command, “strode, catlike, into the well-lit confines of the cell at 0902 hrs [redacted], deftly removed the subject’s black hood with a swipe, paused, and in a deep, measured voice said that subject – having ‘calmed down’ after his (staged) run-in with his hulking, heavily muscled guards the previous day – should reveal what subject had done to vex his guards to the point of rage.”
It only gets weirder and more horrific from there, detailing the ways that detainees were tortured with waterboarding (simulated drowning), and other methods of physical abuse. Haspel oversaw the destruction of 92 videotapes of torture in 2005 because the agency calculated that blowback from the tapes being destroyed would be less catastrophic than the tapes being seen by the public.
Another cable explains that “interrogators told subject that he was going back into the big box, and that they were going to talk again about Walid and other things. Subject was told that he suffered unnecessarily today because he didn’t provide complete responses up front.”
You can read the rest of the declassified cables about torture committed by the CIA over at the National Security Archive.