I was sent to prison for exposing the tortures used in the CIA. Gina Haspel helped keep this information secret
11 September 2001, I was at the CIA headquarters in Langley. As for all Americans, this event was a serious trauma for me, and I myself volunteered to go on a business trip abroad to bring justice to the leaders of Al-Qaeda (terrorist organization, banned in Russia, - Ed..). From January to May 2002, I was in charge of counter-terrorism operations in Pakistan. My team managed to capture dozens of Al Qaeda fighters, including senior commanders of training camps. One of the militants, in whose capture I could play a key role, was Abu Zubeyda: at that time he was mistakenly considered the third most important person in the grouping.
By May of the same year, the CIA decided to torture him. When I returned to the CIA headquarters that month, one of the senior officers of the Center for Combating Terrorism asked me if I wanted to "learn from the use of more effective interrogation methods." I never heard this term and asked what it means. After a brief explanation, I refused. I said that I can not use torture for moral and ethical reasons and, despite the decision of the Ministry of Justice, I consider them illegal.
Unfortunately, the US government lacked those who readily willing to continue to apply this practice. One such person was Gina Haspel, whom President Trump on Tuesday appointed as the new director of the CIA.
To put Haspel at the head of the CIA means to nullify the agency's efforts, and the country as a whole, to abandon the practice of torture. This appointment addresses the CIA staff a simple idea: participate in war crimes, in crimes against humanity, and you will be promoted. Forget the law. Forget ethics. Forget about morality and even that torture does not work. Go ahead and do your thing. We'll cover for you. And the evidence can always be destroyed.
Haspel, who is referred to by the media as a "venerable intelligence veteran", has been working for the CIA for 33 for years, both at headquarters and at senior positions abroad. Recently, while in the post of deputy director, she struggled to avoid publicity. Mike Pompeo, the outgoing director of the CIA and appointed by the new secretary of state, praised her "a unique ability to solve set tasks and inspire others."
I am convinced that with respect to some people these words can be justified. But many of those who were familiar with and worked with Haspel in the CIA, including myself, called her "Bloody Gina."
The CIA will not allow me to give here a brief biography or details of how it contributed to the torture program developed by the intelligence service, describing such details as "now properly classified". But I can say that Haspel was the trustee and the head of the staff of Jose Rodriguez, the former deputy director of the CIA for operations and the former director of the Center for Combating Terrorism, who used to be notorious. And that Rodriguez ultimately instructed Haspel to order the liquidation of the video of torture of Abu Zubeyda. The Ministry of Justice investigated this case, but nobody pronounced guilty verdicts.
CIA officers and psychologists working with the agency under the contract, began to torture Abu Zubeyda 1 August 2002. It was assumed that the techniques used by them should be of an increasing nature and begin with an open palm over the stomach or face. But the operatives working with him decided to start with the most rigorous method. They used 83 times to torture Abu Zubaida, imitating drowning. Later, he was tortured by sleep deprivation; For weeks they were kept locked up in a large cage for dogs; placed him in a box the size of a coffin, and, knowing about the irrational fear that he felt before insects, they launched small creatures there.
Rodriguez then tells reporters that these tortures worked and that Abu Zubeyda provided valuable operational information that helped prevent attacks and saved American lives. Thanks to the report of the CIA's torture prepared by the Senate Intelligence Committee and the personal testimonies of the interrogated officer FBI Ali Sufan, we know that this is not the case.
I knew about what was happening with Abu Zubeyda because of my participation in the CIA operations then. I kept silent about this, even after I left office in 2004. But by 2007 year my patience has burst.
President George W. Bush persistently persuaded Americans that torture programs do not exist. I knew it was a lie. I knew that torture did not work. I knew that this practice was illegal. Therefore, in December 2007 I gave an interview ABC News, in which he said that the CIA was torturing its prisoners that torture was an official US government policy and this policy was carried out with the personal approval of the president. The FBI immediately began to investigate me.
A year later, the Ministry of Justice came to the conclusion that I did not commit a crime. But the CIA leaders were still furious because I made public the information compromising the agency. The CIA asked the new Justice Ministry appointed by Obama to resume the case against me. The case was opened again, and three years later I was charged with five criminal offenses, including three articles related to espionage - the result of that very interview ABC News and the subsequent interview The New York Times. Of course, I was not engaged in espionage, and these charges were eventually dropped, but only after I agreed to petition for a less serious punishment. I spent 23 months in jail for denunciation.
But it was worth it. In many respects, because information about the CIA techniques became public. Thus, Congress banned torture, imitating drowning, and other methods that the agency used on secret sites. The prohibition of torture is now the law of the country.
But if the disclosure of the torture program that I have made turned out to be a prison for me, then Haspal, despite his involvement in them, is about to be promoted to office. This Trump decision harms the morale of those CIA officers who acknowledge torture as an erroneous measure. And it encourages those employees who still consider "more effective interrogation" to be somewhat acceptable. Last week I talked to one of the senior officers who said: "The more changes there are, the more faithfully everything stays in place." Many opponents of torture today are characterized by such a defeatist attitude.
By this step, the president seems to be telling our friends and allies (and also the countries we criticize in the State Department's annual reports on human rights violations): we call ourselves a luminous hail, a model of respect for human rights, civil rights, civil liberties and the rule of law , but in fact all this is nonsense. We talk about these things when it is profitable for us. We tell them to inspire ourselves that we are benefactors. But when it comes to business, we act as we want, to hell with international law.
The meaning of the appointment of Haspel will not escape our attention and our enemies. According to experts in the field of law, American lawmakers and even the militants themselves, the torture program and similar abuses in military prisons in Iraq were among the most effective tools of Al-Qaeda, the Islamic State (terrorist organization, banned in Russia, - Ed.) and other malicious organizations when recruiting new militants. The existence of torture encouraged them to act and rallied the militants around the idea of revenge. Torture sowed an even deeper hatred for the United States among militant groups. Their number multiplied. It was no accident that before the execution of the captives of the "Islamic state" they were lined up in front of the cells in orange overalls (similar to those worn by prisoners in Guantanamo prison). The blame for this, at least in part, lies with Haspel and other CIA staff who developed and oversaw the torture program, as they showed the world how the United States can treat its captives.
Do we Americans want to be a country that tortures people like North Korea, China and Iran? Are we proud of the time when we kidnapped people from one country and sent them to another to be interrogated in secret prisons? Do we want to be a country that cynically preaches human rights, and then surreptitiously violates them?
Our country can not allow this. We can not pretend that this does not concern us. We can not reward the tormentors. Gina Haspel does not belong to the CIA.
John Kyriaku is a former member of the CIA's counter-terrorism department and a former senior researcher at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He is co-host of the Loud and Clear program on Sputnik radio.