Tag Archives: torture

CIA Operative Gina Haspel Who Tortured, Ordered CIA Torture Tapes Destroyed, and Now Wants To Lead CIA Did Nothing Wrong, Says CIA

“Torture was illegal and immoral after 9/11, and it still is now,” warn critics. And Gina Haspel “should never be allowed to work for the American people again.”

By Jon Queally, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 4-21-2018

Gina Haspel, who was in charge of a black site in Thailand where torture occurred and ordered the destruction of CIA tapes of the human rights violations, has been nominated to become director of the spy agency. (Photo: CIA / with overlay)

In what critics are calling a bald attempt to help Trump’s controversial pick to lead the CIA get through a very difficult confirmation process, the CIA on Friday released a previously classifed memo in which Gina Haspel was “cleared” of any wrongdoing when she destroyed more than 90 videotapes of agency operatives torturing human beings.

According to the Associated Press, which first reported the story, the CIA on Friday “gave lawmakers a declassified memo Friday showing [Haspel] was cleared years ago of wrongdoing in the destruction of videotapes showing terror suspects being waterboarded after 9/11.” Continue reading

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Trump Picks ‘Actual Torturer’ Gina Haspel as Next CIA Director

“If Obama had allowed prosecutions over CIA torture, ‘people like Haspel, quite plausibly, could have gone to prison.’ Instead, she’s going to run the CIA.”

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 3-13-2018

On Tuesday, President Donald Trump nominated Gina Haspel, deputy director the of Central Intelligence Agency, to take over for Mike Pompeo, who will now serve as Secretary of State. (Photo: Speak Freely/ACLU)

Human rights advocates are expressing outrage on Tuesday after President Donald Trump nominated deputy director Gina Haspel—”an actual torturer“—to be the next CIA director despite her leading role in running an agency black site where detainees were systematically and gruesomely abused.

Haspel is slated to replace current CIA director Mike Pompeo, who Trump has tapped to be the next Secretary of State now that Rex Tillerson has been fired. Continue reading

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Happy Birthday CIA: 7 Truly Terrible Things the Agency Has Done in 70 Years

By Carey Wedler. Published 9-18-2017 by The Anti-Media

The seal of the Central Intelligence Agency inlaid in the floor of the main lobby of the Original Headquarters Building. Photo by user:Duffman (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

On Monday, President Trump tweeted birthday wishes to the Air Force and the CIA. Both became official organizations 70 years ago on September 18, 1947, with the implementation of the National Security Act of 1947.

After spending years as a wartime intelligence agency called the Office of Strategic Services, the agency was solidified as a key player in the federal government’s operations with then-President Harry Truman’s authorization. Continue reading

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DOJ Docs Raise Questions About Gorsuch’s Views on Torture and Executive Power

Americans should be “deeply concerned that this nominee won’t be a meaningful check on Donald Trump’s illegal and unconstitutional agenda”

By Deirdre Fulton, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 3-16-2017

Photo: Screenshot

With just days until Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, a new trove of documents is raising additional questions about the federal judge’s time at the Department of Justice (DOJ), where he “played a key role in defending the torture and detention policies that have been rejected by the courts and by our country,” according to one group.

From June 2005 to August 2006, Gorsuch served as the principal deputy to the associate attorney general under former President George W. Bush. Continue reading

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Donald Trump May Choose Bush-Era Torture Architect for CIA Chief

Jose Rodriguez is also infamous for destroying 92 tapes of CIA personnel torturing detainees—for which he was never prosecuted

By Nika Knight, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 11-11-2016

Bush-era torture architect Jose Rodriguez defended his role in the clandestine program in a 60 Minutes interview in 2012. (Screenshot: CBS News)

Bush-era torture architect Jose Rodriguez defended his role in the clandestine program in a 60 Minutes interview in 2012. (Screenshot: CBS News)

President-elect Donald Trump may choose an architect of the George W. Bush administration’s torture program, Jose Rodriguez, to head the CIA, The Intercept reported Friday.

The Intercept cites a post-election prediction from Dentons, a law firm where Trump confidante Newt Gingrich (himself a potential secretary of state) serves as an advisor. “Dentons was also retained by Make America Number 1, one of the primary Super PACs supporting Trump’s candidacy,” the outlet writes. Continue reading

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Held 14 Years Without Charge, CIA Torture ‘Guinea Pig’ Abu Zubaydah Asks for Freedom

Zubaydah was the CIA’s first captive after 9/11 and was accused of being one of the highest ranking leaders of al Qaeda, though that claim has been officially recanted

By Lauren McCauley, staff-writer for Common Dreams. Published 8-23-16

Camp Delta, Guantanamo Bay. Photo by Kathleen T. Rhem [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Camp Delta, Guantanamo Bay. Photo by Kathleen T. Rhem [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

After 14 years of being held without charge, Guantánamo prisoner Abu Zubaydah, who was subject to brutal torture and is known as the “guinea pig” for the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) “enhanced interrogation program,” made his first appearance on Tuesday before the Periodic Review Board and requested to be set free.

In a statement (pdf) read by his personal representative, he explained how he “initially believe that he did not have any chance or hope to be released” but has “come to believe that he might have a chance to leave Guantánamo.” Continue reading

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Amid ‘Chilling’ Evidence of Torture, Post-Coup Purge Continues in Turkey

Amnesty International alleges widespread torture of detainees suspected of orchestrating coup

By Nika Knight, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-25-2016

Photo: Humeyra Pamuk/Twitter

Photo via Twitter

Human rights advocates are sounding the alarm about Turkey’s crackdown on supposed dissidents, alleging widespread torture of detainees, while the government continues with its post-coup purges of private and public institutions.

On Sunday, rights group Amnesty International announced that it “has credible reports that Turkish police in Ankara and Istanbul are holding detainees in stress positions for up to 48 hours, denying them food, water and medical treatment, and verbally abusing and threatening them. In the worst cases some have been subjected to severe beatings and torture, including rape.” Continue reading

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‘Stunning’: CIA Admits ‘Mistakenly’ Deleting Copy of Senate Torture Report

The CIA inspector general—the agency’s internal watchdog—admits to deleting its copy of the U.S. Senate’s torture report, as well as a backup

By Nika Knight, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 5-16-2016

The seal of the Central Intelligence Agency inlaid in the floor of the main lobby of the Original Headquarters Building. Photo by user:Duffman (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The seal of the Central Intelligence Agency inlaid in the floor of the main lobby of the Original Headquarters Building. Photo by user:Duffman (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The CIA’s inspector general office admitted to reporters that the department inadvertently deleted its copy of the U.S. Senate’s report detailing the nation’s post-9/11 detention and torture of detainees, Yahoo News reported Monday.

The department also deleted a hard disk backup of the report.

“Clearly the CIA would rather we all forgot about torture,” Cori Creider, a director at human rights watchdog Reprieve, responded to the news in a statement. Continue reading

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New Lawsuit Wants to Know Why Bureau of Prisons Visited CIA Torture Site

ACLU challenges BOP stance that it has no records pertaining to visit to detention site in Afghanistan between 2002 and 2004.

By Andrea Germanos, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 4-15-2016

Members of Witness Against Torture and Amnesty International projected the message, "Torture Is Wrong" in Washington, DC in 2013. (Photo: Justin Norman/flickr/cc)

Members of Witness Against Torture and Amnesty International projected the message, “Torture Is Wrong” in Washington, DC in 2013. (Photo: Justin Norman/flickr/cc)

“What business did the Bureau of Prisons have with a torture site in Afghanistan?”

So asks Carl Takei, staff attorney at the ACLU’s National Prison Project, as his organization on Thursday filed suit against the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) over documents related to a visit to a CIA detention site code named COBALT.

The ACLU had sought, under a Freedom of Information Act request, records of BOP visits to and involvement with the torture site, but the human rights and civil liberties organization’s request was denied, with the BOP saying no such records could be found. Continue reading

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Trying (and Trying) to Get Records From the ‘Most Transparent Administration’ Ever

I experienced firsthand the incompetence and neglect behind Obama’s failure to make good on his FOIA promises.

by Justin Elliott ProPublica.  March 11, 2016, 7 a.m.

Photo: Tony Webster from Portland, Oregon (FBI FOIA) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commonshoto

Photo: Tony Webster from Portland, Oregon (FBI FOIA) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commonshoto

Two years ago last month, I filed a public-records request to the Federal Emergency Management Agency as part of my reporting into the flawed response to Hurricane Sandy. Then, I waited.

The Freedom of Information Act requires a response within 20 business days, but agencies routinely blow that deadline. Eight months later, ProPublica and NPR published our investigation into the Sandy response, but it did not include any documents from FEMA. The agency had simply never gotten back to me.

Finally, this Feb. 10 2014 492 business days past the law’s 20-day deadline 2014 I got a curious phone call from FEMA. The agency was starting a “clean search” for the documents I asked for, because the original search “was not done properly.”

Why?

“I wish I had the answer,” the staffer told me. “There are quite a few cases that this happened to.”

Documents are the lifeblood of investigative journalism, but these problems aren’t of interest only to reporters. The Freedom of Information Act is supposed to deliver on the idea of a government “for and by the people,” whose documents are our documents. The ability to get information from the government is essential to holding the people in power accountable. This summer will mark the 50th anniversary of the law, which has been essential in disclosing the torture of detainees after 9/11, decades of misdeeds by the CIA, FBI informants who were allowed to break the law and hundreds of other stories.

President Obama himself waxed poetic about FOIA on his first full day in office in 2009, issuing a statement calling it “the most prominent expression of a profound national commitment to ensuring an open Government.” He promised that his would be “the most transparent administration in history.”

But Obama hasn’t delivered. In fact, FOIA has been a disaster under his watch.

Newly uncovered documents (made public only through a FOIA lawsuit) show the Obama administration aggressively lobbying against reforms proposed in Congress. The Associated Press found last year that the administration had set a record for censoring or denying access to information requested under FOIA, and that the backlog of unanswered requests across the government had risen by 55 percent, to more than 200,000.

The Republican-led House Oversight and Government Reform Committee looked into the state of the public-records law and in January issued a report with a simple, devastating title: “FOIA Is Broken.”

Incredibly, it took my ProPublica colleague Michael Grabell more than seven years to get records about air marshal misconduct from the Transportation Security Administration. As he pointed out, his latest contact in the FOIA office was still in high school when Grabell filed his initial request.

After a reporter at NBC4 in Washington sought files related to the 2013 Navy Yard shooting, Navy officials actively strategized about how to thwart the request. The Navy only apologized after it mistakenly forwarded its internal email traffic to the reporter.

When a Mexican journalist asked the Drug Enforcement Administration in 2014 for files related to its role in the capture of drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, the agency sent a letter back demanding $1.4 million in fees to search its records.

“There’s a leadership void that has gotten worse,” veteran FOIA lawyer Scott Hodes told me. “It’s not treated as an important thing within the administration.”

Why is the law failing so badly after all the promises about transparency? My experience and the experience of other journalists suggests the reason is twofold: incompetence and neglect.

When I probed a bit more into what had gone wrong at FEMA, the agency’s entire FOIA apparatus started to look like a Potemkin village of open government. The FOIA staff was never trained properly, a FEMA spokesman told me. Of 16 positions in the office, eight have long been vacant for reasons that are not entirely clear. The backlog of requests at FEMA has ballooned to 1,500. That’s more than double what it was less than two years ago.

Spokesman Rafael Lemaitre promised that the backlog was “frankly unacceptable to senior leadership here at FEMA, who have been aware of the problems and are taking actions to correct it.”

“Obviously the Freedom of Information Act is a very vital resource for taxpayers,” Lemaitre said. “Frankly, we haven’t done a very good job of fulfilling that promise.”

Over the past two years, whenever I periodically called or emailed for updates, agency staffers either ignored me, said their systems weren’t working or told me they didn’t have any new information.

My request outlasted the tenure of my original contact in the FOIA office. When I called 14 months into the process, I was told she had left the agency 2014 fair enough, as people change jobs all the time. But my request had apparently not been handed off to anyone else. No one seemed to know what was going on.

Last year, the federal FOIA ombudsman found that FEMA took an average of 214 days to process complex FOIA requests, the third-worst in the Department of Homeland Security. (That compares to an average processing time for complex requests of 119 days across the rest of the government.) “A lack of responsiveness prompted lawsuits that cost the agency a bunch of money,” said James Holzer, the head of the ombudsman’s office, who praised FEMA officials for at least recognizing the problem.

A hiring freeze at the agency after sequestration didn’t help matters. But officials told Holzer’s investigators last year that the eight long-vacant positions in the public records office would be filled as early as last fall. Today, those jobs remain empty. The FEMA spokesman didn’t have an explanation for what’s taking so long.

When I tried to find out whether anyone had been held responsible for the fiasco, I didn’t find much more transparency. “I cannot discuss any personnel issues, unfortunately,” the spokesman told me.

Has the agency at least set a specific goal for when it will get through its backlog? “Our target is to get these cleared as quickly as possible 2014 I don’t have a date for you.”

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