Washington, D.C.—109 of the nation’s most respected retired generals and admirals today sent a letter to the Senate expressing profound concern over the nomination of Gina Haspel for Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, citing her involvement with torture and other unlawful abuse of detainees as well as the role she played in carrying out an order—against the objections of the White House and Congress—to destroy 92 videotapes of individuals in U.S. custody being subjected to torture.
“We understand that some well-respected former senior government intelligence officials have spoken highly of Ms. Haspel’s experience and long record of service to the Agency. However, 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. We did not accept the ‘just following orders’ justification after World War II, and we should not accept it now,” wrote the retired generals and admirals.
The letter cites reports that Gina Haspel ran a CIA “black site” at which at least one detainee, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, was repeatedly tortured, including by waterboarding. The letter also notes that former CIA general counsel John Rizzo has stated that for some period of time Haspel oversaw the CIA’s entire interrogation program—a program that was rife with mismanagement and abuse. Finally, the military leaders raise concern over Haspel’s role in carrying out an order to destroy 92 videotapes of individuals in U.S. custody being subjected to torture. She reportedly did so despite federal court orders requiring preservation of all records pertaining to detainee abuse, and over the objections of congressional leaders, the Director of National Intelligence, the Director of Central Intelligence, two successive White House counsels, Department of Justice officials, and the vice president’s top lawyer.
“The torture and cruel treatment of prisoners undermines our national security by increasing the risks to our troops, hindering cooperation with allies, alienating populations whose support the United States needs in the struggle against terrorism, and providing a propaganda tool for extremists who wish to do us harm. It would send a terrible signal to confirm as the next Director of the CIA someone who was so intimately involved in this dark chapter of our nation’s history,” added the retired generals and admirals.
For more information on Gina Haspel’s record see this backgrounder.