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The Trump administration has been experiencing a large amount of turnover. Whether or not that is simply aggressively pursuing the right staff for long-term success or a sign of chaotic and impulsive leadership, I won’t speculate.

But due to the recent departure of Rex Tillerson, President Trump has decided to nominate CIA head Mike Pompeo for secretary of state. To fill Pompeo’s place, President Trump has nominated Gina Haspel, who has been serving as deputy director of the CIA.

However, neither nominee’s confirmation is ensured, and there is very good reason for this. The CIA’s recent history of torture and allegations from Haspel’s time running a black site in Thailand are excellent reasons that the Senate should refuse to confirm Haspel as the next head of the CIA.

First of all, this shouldn’t be viewed as a partisan political issue, although the media is likely to paint it that way. Prominent Republican Senators such as John McCain and Rand Paul have voiced their opposition to so-called “enhanced interrogation” techniques, with Paul going as far as saying he will filibuster the nominations of Pompeo and Haspel.

The Democratic party has its failings on the issue, such as President Obama deciding not to hold people accountable for torture. Neither party is wholly bad on the issue of torture, but neither political party is innocent either. To pretend otherwise would be incredibly dishonest.

Though it is honestly the least important reason torture should be opposed, it is worth noting that torture is ineffective.

There are simply too many variables to account for to ensure that any intelligence received as a result of torture is accurate. Any person being questioned may or may not be a terrorist, and if they are a terrorist they may or may not have useful information. And even if they do have useful information, they may or may not talk, and if they talk, they may or may not be telling the truth. The motivation to lie only increases when the person being questioned becomes more and more desperate to end whatever torture they are being subjected to.

There is also logic to the argument that when the United States does something as morally reprehensible as torture, anti-American sentiment around the world becomes more widespread. In other words, far from helping America in the War on Terror, torture might hurt America’s cause.

However, this is not even the most important critique of torture. The most important critique of torture is that it is illegal under both American and international law.

Courts have ruled that numerous amendments in the Bill of Rights protect individuals from torture. Furthermore, the United States is bound by international law against the torture of prisoners. If torture is reprehensible and wrong when America’s enemies do it, it is just as wrong when America does it. Just because terrorists will resort to barbaric means does not mean America should.

All of this brings me back to Haspel, who has frequently been described as someone who played a role in the CIA’s enhanced interrogation program. Further, she was involved in the destruction of tapes of waterboarding that took place at the CIA black site that she was briefly in charge of in 2002.

At the very least, this is troubling enough that the Senate ought to block her nomination until her records on her involvement in the CIA torture program have been declassified.

It is not enough for America to simply admit wrongdoing. America must, at the very least, not promote people like Haspel who have played a role in attempting to cover up American torture.

It would be incredibly hypocritical to condemn other countries and groups for committing human rights violations while giving people who worked to conceal human rights violations committed by Americans even more power.

Do not support people like Haspel. Otherwise, the American government risks becoming more like the people it condemns than anyone should be comfortable with.

(1) comment

Steve Gregg

Josh Holst,

You have a lot of things wrong, but then when has the Daily ever gotten anything right?

First, Gina Haspel did not take over the CIA black site in Thailand as station chief in 2002 until after the "enhanced interrogation" of the despicable Saudi Abu Zubaydah, the fourth highest ranking leader of Al Qaeda. Even the crazy loony lefty ProPublica admits it was wrong in its accusation:

However, being a Daily editor means never having to say you're sorry. You just keep running with the same old, same old discredited propaganda. After all, your goal is to indoctrinate, not inform, right? Like Lenin said, a lie told often enough becomes the truth, right?

Yes, of course, torture can produce valuable intelligence when done intelligently. All our POWs in Vietnam gave up information after torture by the North Vietnamese commies backed by Soviet intel. Abu Zubaydah made a token resistance, then had a Come To Allah moment when he said Allah only expects jihadis to resist so much. Then he spilled the beans. One CIA officer said Zubaydah was only waterboarded for 35 seconds before he started talking.

If you are torturing people to make false claims, it will work. Lots of people confessed to being witches under torture in medieval times. In modern interrogation, you first quiz subjects on intelligence you already know to check the subject's truthfulness, then progress to the unknown, checking his answers against other intelligence. In other words, confessions are validated for accuracy.

The people who hate America will hate us no matter what we do. The Muslims hate us because we are a superpower that is not Muslim. That offends their religion which states that all the world be Muslim. Their religious doctrine mandates they attack the non-Muslim world, the dar al harb, and conquer it for Allah. As part of that doctrine, Islam declares the USA to be Satan.

We found the oil in Saudi Arabia. We developed it, working with Saudis as partners. We shipped it. We gave the lion's share of the profits to Saudi Arabia, lifting it up from abject poverty to the lap of luxury, all the while carefully respecting its repugnant culture. In return, the Saudis declared us their enemy for religious reasons, mass murdered Americans in our home, and celebrated the attack. The Saudis attacked us because we were not Muslims, not because we had done them any harm. That is our offense in their murderously bigoted barbarian eyes.

This may come as a shock to you, but Saudis are not covered by the Bill of Rights in the US Constitution, which applies only to Americans. Saudis do not acquire constitutional rights by killing Americans.

The United States is not bound by international law against the torture of jihadis. International law is composed of treaties between nations, which are contracts. Muslims do not recognize such contracts which they consider man-made law which is, in their eyes, blasphemy. They only recognize Sharia law based on the Koran. That's the whole point of their jihad, to force Islamic law on the world.

It's pretty hypocritical to hold America to international law while giving Muslims a pass. The Muslims kill the captives they take, beheading them on YouTube, even setting them on fire. Yet, treasonous liberals never complain about that, only complaining about American treatment of jihadis, all of whom are kept alive under US care, served halal meals and given Korans and prayer breaks. Liberals demand a double standard, demanding perfection from America while making no demands on our jihadi enemies, who can do their worst with no complaint from the Left.

Simply put, we are under no obligation to treat Al Qaeda scum well. They are literally outlaws to which no law applies. Under the Geneva Convention, we can shoot them if we please, since they do not wear any insignia identifying themselves as combatants and target civilians.

The reason why we have a CIA is to do the dirty stuff that needs to be done to defend America. When terrorists slaughter innocent American men, women, and children to advance their sick, evil, barbarian religion, well, the gloves come off. Such harsh interrogation uncovered an Al Qaeda follow on attack that involved placing cyanide bombs, called mubtakkars, on New York subway trains. Zawahiri called it off forty-five days before it was to launch, probably because he and Bin Laden never expected America to respond with the all out fury it did. It intimidated them, which is the correct response in dealing with terrorists.

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