There must be accountability for torture

The U.S. Senate voted 54–45 on Thursday, 17 May 2018 to approve the nomination of Gina Haspel as the new CIA Director.

After the 9/11 attacks, Gina Haspel worked as Chief of Staff in the CIA’s Counterterrorism Section, the unit responsible for the coordination of the CIA’s infamous rendition, detention and “enhanced interrogation” program.  In late 2002 she was sent to run a “black site” in Thailand where she oversaw interrogations which included torture and with respect to which she subsequently ordered the destruction of videotape evidence.

On the global implications of Haspel being confirmed by the full Senate, Osgoode Hall law professor Craig Scott writes:

Each time the United States’ political and legal systems refuse to pursue any form of accountability for key participants in the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Pentagon torture programs, it puts another nail in the coffin of the global struggle against impunity for torture.

But Thursday’s vote is more than a failure to hold a torturer to account. It is a grotesque action to make that torturer the public face of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.

Each time U.S. impunity is confirmed, the torture apparatuses of other states are emboldened. They know it makes U.S. criticism of them that much less likely and they also know that their governments can push back with charges of hypocrisy if the U.S. does try to get righteous with them about their own uses of torture. – Craig Scott

During her confirmation hearing, and in written responses Haspel sent to senators after the hearing, she refused to acknowledge the immorality of the CIA’s now defunct torture program, rendering meaningless her assurance to the Committee that she would in future do nothing “immoral” if asked by the President.

Craig Scott also reminds us that torture is not just America’s problem. Referring to the Counterterrorism Unit where Gina Haspel worked, he states:

It was, for example, this program that saw Canadian Maher Arar detained in New York, flown to Jordan, and passed on to suffer horrific torture in Syria.

On the central question of holding torturers to account, Canada fails as well:

…successive Canadian governments — including the present Trudeau government — have refused to call a commission of inquiry to look into the policy and practice of the Canadian military sending detainees in Afghanistan to the substantial risk of torture at the hands of Afghan security agencies widely known to use brutal interrogation methods as standard procedure.

This continued Canadian abdication of “morality and accountability” may one day be rectified by the International Criminal Court.  But why should this be necessary?  Canadians must continue to determinedly and persistently demand made-in-Canada accountability for these immoral and unconscionable acts committed in our name.

For the full blog post by Craig Scott, click: Trump CIA Pick’s Refusal To Condemn All Torture Is Canada’s Moral Problem, Too ( blog, 15 May 2018).

For a detailed and harrowing description of the torture inflicted by the CIA rendition program, click: U.S. Navy Reserve Doctor on Gina Haspel Torture Victim: “One of the Most Severely Traumatized Individuals I Have Ever Seen  (Jeremy Scahill, The Intercept, 17 May 2018).

And see also: The terrible accomplishment of Gina Haspel (Heather Mallick, Toronto Star, 11 May 2018).

Photo credit: Central Intelligence Agency


Tags: "enhanced interrogation", accountability, Afghanistan detainees, Central Intelligence Agency, CIA, CIA Counterterrorism Section, CIA Director, Convention against Torture, Craig Scott, Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL), Gina Haspel, Glenn Greenwald, International Criminal Court, international law, Jeremy Scahill, Maher Arar, morality, public inquiry, Syria, Torture, U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, USA, waterboarding