Gina Haspel has been confirmed as head of the CIA with assistance from Democratic senators despite her appalling record of supervising brutal torture methods and then destroying evidence. Jeremy Scahill reports how Dr. Sondra Crosby, a professor of public health at Boston University and a doctor and a Naval reserve officer, described what she saw to the committee that was conducting the hearings, and that it was worse than what she had seen in torture victims in other places.
In her letter to [Democratic senator Mark] Warner, Crosby stated that among the known acts of torture committed against Nashiri while he was in U.S. custody at several U.S. facilities, included:
- suffocated with water (waterboarding)
- subjected to mock execution with a drill and gun while standing naked and hooded
- anal rape through rectal feeding
- threatened that his mother would be sexually assaulted
- lifted off ground by arms while they were bound behind his back (after which a medical officer opined that shoulders might be dislocated)
Crosby told Senate staffers that the CIA’s “methodology consisted of strategic assaults — multiple traumas inflicted simultaneously, as well as consecutively, in a manner designed to instill terror and maximize harm in the prisoners.” The interrogation program, she stated, showed that “torture is not just a crime of physical violence, but a way of destroying someone’s humanity.” Crosby added: “It is important to note that the barbarity of the torture methods used were shrouded and concealed in sterile euphemisms.”
In the briefing, Crosby described the torture in graphic, albeit unclassified, terms:
The terror of being kept naked in pitch-black, shackled to the ceiling while music blared, covered in urine and feces while insects crawled on their bodies, in dank cells that were freezing cold or unbearably hot. The horrific conditions in between interrogations were in some cases as bad as the interrogations. These torture methods were inflicted for hours and days, for weeks at a time, over the course of years. The men became disoriented with no sense of when the abuse would stop. Some of the men wished for death.
Theo Padnos, an American journalist who was captured and tortured by al Qaeda, describes in an open letter to Haspel what he went through because of the actions of people like her.
For what it’s worth, at the time, as I tried to trace the violence that was being done to me through a chain of causes, my thoughts alighted on the psychologists, subcontractors, CIA agents and legal experts who had found it within themselves to aid in the torture of prisoners at your famous “black sites.” Those Americans, it seemed to me, had not cared enough to reflect on who might pay for their crimes when, in the fullness of time, the torture seeped into the Islamic world’s collective unconscious, fructified, embodied itself in younger people, then crept again into the streets. By the winter of 2013, when I was undergoing my ordeal in the Aleppo eye hospital, some of those American torture officials had returned to jobs on leafy campuses. Others were moving up in the ranks. (Perhaps this scenario sounds familiar to you?) While I was waiting in a heap of bloody clothing for my torturers to return, those career success stories, I was certain of it, were waiting in drawing rooms in Washington and Berkeley. Tea was in the offing there, perhaps a lecture. Those tea drinkers at home I did not want to forgive.
In an interview that I heard on the radio but cannot now trace, Padnos told the interviewer that his al Qaeda captors used special torture techniques on American prisoners that were mirror images of what Americans had done to their prisoners. It was a deliberate tit-for-tat move, which resulted in Americans being treated far worse than other prisoners and the captives would be told this.
The fact that the use of torture results in American captives being treated worse should deter the US from using these techniques to at least protect their own people. But it won’t. Because ultimately the people at the top don’t really give a damn if their own soldiers and citizens are brutalized because of their own brutal practices.