CIA

Gina Haspel, Susan Collins, and the Folly of the 'Good Soldier' Defense of Torture

Haspel's defenders say she was just following protocol when she oversaw the waterboarding of a suspected al-Qaeda operative. That's not good enough.

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Jeff Malet Photography/Newscom

The most interesting moment of Gina Haspel's confirmation hearing on Wednesday morning occurred when Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), a key swing vote in the Senate, took her turn at grilling President Donald Trump's pick to be the next director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Collins zeroed in on the most controversial part of Haspel's CIA career: the few months in 2002 that she spent overseeing a secret prison in Thailand where suspected al-Qaeda terrorists (including at least one pregnant woman) were subjected to torture—including waterboarding—in apparent violation of international norms and treaties outlawing such practices. Years later, Haspel drafted a cable ordering other CIA agents to destroy videotaped evidence of interrogations.

Collins began by asking Haspel whether she was involved in the creation of the CIA's so-called "enhanced interrogation program." Haspel said she was not. Collins followed up by asking whether Haspel was a senior executive at the CIA when the program was conceived. Again, no.

And when you did find out about the program, Collins continued, what did you think of it?

"I was told that interrogation experts had designed the program, that the highest legal authority in the United States had approved it, and that the President of the United States had approved it," Haspel replied.

This represents, in a nutshell, the best defense that Haspel and her supporters have been able to offer for her involvement in the CIA's torture program—that she was, in so many words, following the orders of people she trusted at a time when the nation was shaken by terrorism. It was the same line of reasoning offered by Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence, at the outset of Wednesday's hearing when he praised Haspel for acting "morally, ethically, and legally" throughout her career and said he would not tolerate any significant digging into Haspel's connection to torture.

"Those who have issues with programs or operations conducted years ago should address those concerns and their questions to former presidents, former directors, and former attorney generals," Burr said. "This hearing is about how you'll lead the Central Intelligence Agency into the future, not how you've faithfully executed missions in the past."

Faithfully executed. Approved by the highest legal authorities in the country. Yes, Haspel might have engaged in some questionable activities, her defenders argue, but she was only doing what other people told her was right. The question of whether torture was legal, moral, or even effective should be put to other people. Leave Haspel alone, and vote to give her a promotion.

Collins seemed to be walking Haspel down that same path, letting the nominee parry each question by confirming that, no, she did not have anything to do with designing or approving the torture program. And, reiterating something she had said at the outset of the hearing, Haspel told Collins in no uncertain terms that she "would never permit CIA to resume an interrogation program."

Then, the senator snapped the trap shut.

"As a candidate, President Trump repeatedly expressed his support for waterboarding. In fact, he said we should go beyond waterboarding," Collins pointed out. If the CIA had a high value detainee, and "the president gave you a direct order to waterboard that suspect, what would you do?"

Haspel, for the first time all morning, looked uncomfortable. "I don't believe the president would ask me to do that," she offered, unconvincingly. Several awkward seconds ticked by before Haspel regained her balance and launched into a tangential explanation of current CIA policy about "debriefing" suspects. (The exchange between Collins and Haspel begins at 1:37:30 in the video below; Collins drops the hammer at 1:40:05.)

Moments later, Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) pointed out that Haspel had failed to answer the "what if the president told you to do it" hypothetical.

Haspel was more resolute. "Under no circumstances" would the CIA engage in that activity under her watch.

But the point lingers, doesn't it? This is exactly how the "good soldier" defense falls apart. Haspel, we are told, is not responsible for the decisions she made in the past because she was following orders and listening to the legal advice of others. Yet we are also supposed to believe that today she would disobey those same orders and ignore that same advice. Does chain of command no longer matter? Should Haspel have ignored it in Thailand?

Atop the logical problems exposed by Collins' line of questing, there are factual and historical hurdles to advancing Haspel with this reasoning.

For starters, it is untrue that Haspel was obligated to carry out the orders of her superiors while running the "black site" prison in Thailand where waterboarding took place. In fact, she had an obligation to refuse them. American military and intelligence officials have an affirmative obligation not to obey an illegal order, and a prohibition on torture is a fundamental principle of American and international law governing human rights, says Alberto Mora, a former general counsel for the U.S. Navy who reviewed, and opposed, the legal rationale for torture during the Bush administration.

"We should expect every American to know this, particularly highly trained officers in the CIA," he says. "She cannot claim that she was following orders."

The law prohibiting torture existed in 2002, and post-9/11 attempts to create legal loopholes for brutalizing suspected terrorists should have been questioned. Indeed, in some cases, CIA officers did push back against the order to torture, at least in part because—as Haspel pointed out during Wednesday's hearing, too—the CIA did not have an interrogation role historically.

"A lot of people in the CIA would probably agree that they should never have been in the business of detentions and interrogations," Navy Lieutenant Alaric Piette, an attorney for Abdul Rahim al-Nashiri, one of the al-Qeada detainees Haspel tortured, told The Daily Beast this week. "Forcing them to shift that mission is part of the problem. But that is the point when she should have fought back. Other people did. She just didn't."

Even after Wednesday's hearing, it remains fairly unclear exactly how closely involved Haspel was to the waterboarding. The CIA has pushed back against news outlets like The Daily Beast and Propublica that have claimed she directly oversaw his torture, with mixed success in getting the story changed. The only way to know for sure what role Haspel played is to have more information about her time in Thailand declassified so senators—and, more importantly, the general public—can assess what she did or did not do.

Lacking that clarity, we are left with two contradictory messages about Haspel. She is simultaneously presented as being a good soldier who might have done some bad things, but only because she was told to do them—and as someone who would stand up to the president of the United States if asked to do the very same things today. Both of those things can be true, of course, but the limited evidence for the former assertion makes the latter one impossible to believe.

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  1. It was the same line of reasoning offered by Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence, at the outset of Wednesday’s hearing when he praised Haspel for acting “morally, ethically, and legally” throughout her career and said he would not tolerate any significant digging into Haspel’s connection to torture.

    She’s not going to sleep with you, dude.

    1. He is not interested in coitus. Just some torture play.

      1. CBT?

        1. Maybe he’s into breath play, like the former New York Attorney General.

  2. http://dailycaller.com/2018/05…..en-israel/

    Aventi accuses the wrong Micheal Cohen of taking money from the Russians. What a fucking clown show.

    1. It remains a mystery how the financial records of a completely separate Michael Cohen would have ended up in the tranche of documents provided to Avenatti.

      Well, if Hillary hadn’t deleted all those personal emails ….

    2. Wow, damn, so who the hell gave them this information for it two sweep two randos up in the circle. Did someone just go to a bank and look for all transfers with the name micheal cohen and someone from anther country?

      1. And isn’t stealing someone’s bank records and making them public some kind of a crime?

        1. That too, can’t even claim in the public interests here. If they’d just stolen the documents of the guy they were targeting, partisanship could have gotten in the way, but they went and picked on an innocent bystander. No one can say anything about nailing the guy to the wall now.

      2. Did someone just go to a bank and look for all transfers with the name micheal cohen and someone from anther country?

        You’re underselling the brilliance of open borders. Neither one of these transfers was into or out of the US. The US Government has a Michael Cohen that it needs to fuck the shit out of and borders don’t matter.

        Of course, it’s not like “Fuck you, get a warrant.” would play stateside, but it would be nice to think that “Fuck you, this is sovereign Canadian/Malaysian/Kenyan/Israeli soil.” still worked as some sort of backstop.

        1. World War I started with a terrorist attack and an attempt to bring the alleged terrorist to trial.

          1. If only there had been a law preventing Serbs from forming secret military organizations anywhere in Europe, right? If the British had squelched the whole ‘Join or Die’ rabble upstart colonies, the Austro-Hungarian Empire would’ve had more justification for squelching those ‘Unification or Death’ upstarts who shot him.

            Or, as libertarians, shall we condemn the acts and not necessarily the (exceedingly pie in the sky) motivation?

            1. I think national sovereignty is good and was not arguing against it. I was just pointing out that we’ve had this situation before.

        2. Ah yeah, the guy who wanted the dirt probably just had to shop around for the right bank guy willing to hand over all the info for free. People were probably lining up to help for political motivations.

    3. Did you read the article? The mistaken transfers involved Malaysians and Kenyans. It acknowledges that other payments, including from AT&T, Novartis, and Columbus Nova (the Russia-linked one) were made to Trump’s lawyer Cohen.

      I’m not sure how Avenatti got this info, or why the person who leaked it included erroneous transactions with a different person, but this story absolutely did not refute the entire story about Cohen taking payments through his shell company. Whatever it is, I don’t think this story has anything to do with Russian collusion.

      1. Heh, should have refreshed.

        It’s just a fucking clown show. John has switched from funny typoes and malapropisms to undirected anger. He’s no fun any more.

        1. Au contraire. Angry John is the most entertaining John.

    4. No.

      But there is one problem with the document: two of the allegedly “fraudulent” payments were made to men named Michael Cohen who have no affiliation with Trump.

      Avenatti’s report includes a section listing “possible fraudulent and illegal financial transactions” involving Trump’s lawyer. One of the payments is a $4,250 wire transfer from a Malaysian company, Actuarial Partners, to a bank in Toronto.

      The other is a $980 transfer from a Kenyan bank to Bank Hapoalim ? the largest bank in Israel.

      The two false accusations oncern a Malaysia, Kenya, and Israel. Not a Russian in sight.

      1. Where did I say otherwise? I said it was a clown show and he got the wrong Cohens. Don’t worry Cohen still may have taken money from the evil Russians. You McCarthyism is safe.

  3. The American experiment is officially over when we start saying we were just following orders.

    1. People have always said that. And we slaughtered entire Indian tribes and burned a couple of million Japanese to death. The idea that America was ever some wonderful kindly country that never broke the rules or did anything bad is absurd. The only thing more absurd is the pretention that you could have a civilization at all without being that way. The world sucks. The only reason you have anything at all is because either you or someone else who serves you is willing to kill to keep it. It is the way life is. If you want to keep your hands clean, join the church and embrace martyrdom.

      1. If you want to keep your hands clean, join the church and embrace martyrdom.

        Citation needed. 😉

        1. See the entire history of mankind.

          1. I think Rich is trying to say that the church ain’t exactly clean either. Torquemada and all that.

          2. I’m willing to stipulate that this is true, although I can’t find it in me to call it civilized.

      2. If that’s the only reason, why don’t homeless people have shit?

        1. In my experience, the homeless have an endless supply of shit, and aren’t adverse to sharing.

      3. I’m certainly not suggesting that killing isn’t a part of maintaining a sovereign nation. But there were fundamental differences in ww2 between American troops in German prison camps, German prisoners in American camps, and American troops in Japanese camps.

        There are certain things you just don’t do to prisoners of war, even if they do it to you.

        1. Yes. If this woman is confirmed, regardless of the crimes committed by the U.S. government in the past, the honor of this country will be diminished.

          1. That would bother us, if a large portion of this country still cared about honor. Sigh.

            In a very weird, aspy kind of way, I blame credit bureaus. We turned reputation into a protected socialist industry, this was an entirely predictable result.

      4. Such cynicism from a man who had to be carried to a fainting couch over emails on a private server.

        1. Classified emails, as well as unclassified emails that the Most Qualified Candidate Ever didn’t ever want to be subject to FOIA.

          Details matter.

          1. Your details are stupid.

        2. Lololololololol!!!!!!

    2. Yes and no. Torturing someone, because you are just following orders is bad. Giving a homeowner a citation for painting his home the wrong color, because you were just orders and the council outlawed purple homes, is OK. Refusing to give marriage licenses to same-sex couples because you won’t be one of those guys who just follows orders is bad. It’s complicated.

    3. Historically, the US has always been more benign than other nations of the time. The problem is that everyone expects to judge actions from decades or hundreds of years ago by today’s standards.

  4. Ok, now is the right time to call these people Nazi’s

    1. I’m not sure. I mean, we should not have tortured suspects, but we could easily call them doctors if they had picked this method for making suspects more cooperative.

  5. Obama tortured KSM for 8 years and assasinated an American citizen overseas and you are getting your panties in a wad over water boarding????? American fraternities do worse things than water boarding!!!

    1. So why don’t you try it out.

      1. I will make a deal with you?if you agree to spend 1 year in solitary confinement then I will agree to be waterboarded.

        1. I consider both to be extreme torture.

          1. Well, you’re a weak little pussy. So it’s no surprise.

      2. Hey Tony, I HAVE been waterboarded. Unpleasant, but hardly torture. Granted, I personally have no fear of drowning, so it may be more unsettling for others. It certainly is nothing compared to what our enemies, the people Tony wants to coddle while Americans die, are subjected to.

        1. So your thesis is “Light torture produces results!” I look forward to your link to evidence of this.

          1. Waterboarding isn’t torture dumbass. You probably think it’s a crime to do more than ask questions politely.

    2. Sebastian – thank you for honesty. The outrage at Haspel by anyone that supported the Obama administration is laughable.

      1. What about the outrage at Haspel by people who vociferously opposed the Obama administration?

      2. For the record I believed this lie and I voted for Democrats in 2006-2008. The initial reporting conflated water boarding with false confessions which is not how it was used. I stand by those votes though because like Trump I always opposed the Iraq War and also because I recall reading once Dick Cheney did advocate using water boarding to elicit false confessions but the brave interrogators refused to do it. I wish I could find a link for that story but I can’t but I swear I read it.

      3. Obama opposed torture as a signature platform plank and then he put an official end to it.

        1. McCain stated solitary was the worst torture and Obama did not put an end to that so Obama did not end torture. KSM not only is in solitary but he has not been given due process so do you not have a problem with that??

    3. Why is it an either/or proposition? Can’t I be outraged at both?

      1. I am outraged at none of it but you are free to be outraged of the imprisonment of KSM in solitary without due process until he dies. Now I would have been outraged by Obama’s show trial of KSM in which he said there was no chance he would see the light of day even if found innocent.

  6. The morning article about Haspel had debunked Democratic Party talking points that Pro Publica retracted. Is the next article going to claim that she killed someone’s grandma?

  7. Water boarding is torture however terrorist do not fall under the geneva conventions so we can do what we want to them. Thats a correct statement but I still don’t agree with the methods. and in reality if Gore had been president we would have never heard about it while we still waterboarding. there was as much BDS as todays TDS

    and to be clear I speak as a person who’s step father was tortured by the Japanese and thus consider water boarding torture. they even used tickling as a form of torture. Torture comes in many forms

    1. Eighth Amendment applies even if the Geneva Convention doesn’t.

      1. On U.S. soil or at least thats what some argue. I’m not to sure of the validity of that argument

        1. The people who argue that just want to torture people. There is nothing in the text of the Eighth Amendment or the Constitution as a whole that limits it to US citizens or US territories.

          1. So based in the language in the eighth amendment, you favor unlimited unilateral intervention across the globe to stop torture?

          2. There is nothing in the text of the Eighth Amendment or the Constitution as a whole that limits it to US citizens or US territories.

            We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

            Nowhere does it limit it to US citizens or US territories. Nowhere. Not even once.

            1. Seriously, your argument was better when you stuck to the 8th. Then you vomited your shitty ideology all over it.

            2. Then why go to the trouble of differentiating between “persons” and “citizens” in the Constitution, or claim it limit government?

              RR

      2. Eighth Amendment applies even if the Geneva Convention doesn’t.

        Are we allowed to deprive them of their arms?

        1. If they threaten people, kill people, or try to, yes.

          1. And, as Elias Fakaname points out above, if their local or regional leaders and government public servants and bureacracy attempt to deprive them of their arms will their 2A protections be enforced?

    2. Waterboarding can be torture just like playing music can be torture but the major definition of torture is physical pain to elicit false confessions. The Bush administration never used water boarding to elicit false confessions so per the Webster’s definition it did not amount to torture. Keep in mind it was limited to a few high level AQ officials that had actual information and quite frankly should have been trained to resist water boarding and other enhanced interogation techniques. The fact they weren’t is their fault and my advice to them is next time train your operatives properly or stop being terrorists.

      1. No, really it was just that one time. Honest.

      2. Sebastian,

        The definition of torture has nothing to do with “eliciting false confessions.” If it a particular act is torture when used to elicit false confessions, then it is also torture when used (in an attempt) to elicit truthful confessions. For instance, pulling someone’s fingernails out to get them to confess is torture whether you are trying to get the truth or a false confession. I am not sure where you picked up the “false confessions” bit. Frankly, it is weird. Not least because, a priori, you generally don’t know whether a confession is true or false.

        In fact, the United Nations Conventions on Torture define torture as: “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him, or a third person, information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person….” Hence, the definition typically includes attempting to elicit truthful information or a truthful confession. One of the dangers, of course, is that it may elicit false information or a false confession.

        1. Your comment is extremely disingenuous which shows how weak your position is. Literally 100% of the early coverage of this issue by the liberal media focused on false confessions. The notion you pretend not to understand why false confessions are anathema to American justice and values shows how invested you are in the false narrative that Democrats perpetuated to win two elections (as an opponent of the Iraq War I am happy they won them but Trump is awful consequence of liberal lies).

          Believe it or not the Americans that were involved in the enhanced interrogation program wanted to prevent more terrorist attacks and protect people like you. They weren’t mentally and physically harming people for kicks. If their tactics didn’t work they would have changed tactics because they were focused on getting information to protect their fellow Americans.

          I am willing to give you the benefit of the doubt that you are gullible and you don’t think the interrogators were doing this for kicks because the alternative is unthinkable if you are really a fellow American citizen and not a Russian troll…I would hope you would give the interrogators the same benefit of the doubt.

          1. Pot, meet Kettle.

            Rather than either engage on the definition of torture (the only issue I addressed) or admit your definition was wrong, you prefer to avoid the issue and make up imaginary arguments for me. You must have fascinating conversations in your own mind in which you cleverly dismantle your opponents.

            Here in the real world, I said nothing about “false confessions being [or not being] anathema to American justice” and I never said anything about the motives of the people who engaged in the “enhanced interrogation program”. Your disturbingly emotional rebuttal consists entirely of non sequiturs.

            You demonstrate that you are incapable of or unwilling to participate in rational discourse. In the future, I won’t make the mistake of assuming you will discuss anything in good faith.

            1. We used mind tricks to get evil people to tell the truth…75% of Americans would have supported enhanced interrogation had the liberal media not obfuscated the issue by conflating water boarding with false confessions. The 25% of Americans that would have continued to oppose it even if initially reported accurately are people that hate America and want us weakened.

              I voted Democrat in part because of I believed the Bush administration engaged in torture but within 5 minutes of reading the memos released under Obama in 2009 I had changed my mind because no fair minded person could have a problem with tricking terrorists into telling the truth!!

              1. You demonstrate what a shallow thinker you are.

  8. I once saw a dog eat its own vomit, retch it back up and eat it again about 5 times in a row.

    I have no idea why reading these defenses of Trump’s pick to head the CIA made me think of that.

  9. Isn’t it funny how Trump’s campaign promise to torture but do it biglier also didn’t really get as much media play as Hillary’s emails? Kind of like his (kept) promise to ramp up civilian deaths in the ME (but she’s the warmonger).

    Feeling free yet?

    1. ” (but she’s the warmonger).”

      A more sophisticated person than you would understand more than one thing can be true.

      1. It’s a choice between two people.

    2. Nobody thought he’d actually win.

    3. Why did she keep getting promoted under the Obama administration if she’s so terrible?

      1. Obama didn’t know about the program until he read about it in the NYT.

    4. Tony, you stupid disingenuous cunt, Hillary’s continued statements on the matter of ME intervention make it quite clear she is the one who would be racking up the body count, not Trump.

      https://tinyurl.com/y8kcmc4l

      So we’re clear, the link is to back up what I already said, since we all know what a liar you are Tony. I could easily see you claiming she never said these things.

      Hillary was the warmonger, Trump was the peace candidate.

      1. The saddest part is how you don’t even want to be informed. But it’s not that terrible. The news doesn’t report on Trump’s death spree much. Still, obviously, Hillary’s hypothetical death spree is worse than his real one.

  10. If she had resigned in protest, she wouldn’t be a candidate to lead the CIA.

    Someone who had no knowledge or experience with our torture protocols wouldn’t be qualified to lead the CIA.

    So, I don’t know what we can do except use this as an excuse to publicize that these things happen and to perhaps reconsider our foreign policies that lead to such things. I am not holding my breath.

    1. Well unless you sit on the Senate Intelligence Committee, you can’t do anything.

      If you are on the committee and find yourself sitting opposite a candidate like Gina Haspel, you can vote against her and make a public statement to the effect that anyone who abetted torture in violation of the Constitution is shit out of luck when they go looking for a promotion.

      I wouldn’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen either though.

      1. She didn’t violate the constitution. You’re basing your premise on feelz, not facts. She appears qualified for the job. Case closed.

        1. The comment was “she abetted torture in violation of the Constitution.” That is accurate.

          She abetted torture. Torture of a person in U.S. custody by the U.S. Government violates the U.S. Constitution.

  11. She could always do the “youthful overzealousness which I now repent” bit, but instead they’re trying to still say it was OK.

    This is Congress, which passed the anti-torture laws in the first place. If torture was so important to the War on Terror, Congress could have authorized it in the PATRIOT Act, that grab-bag from the intelligence/LEO wishlist.

    The failure to authorize torture in the PATRIOT ACT, while authorizing all sorts of other stuff, means Congress made a policy choice which it should stick to.

    If members of Congress don’t take the laws they pass seriously, why should they be surprised when nobody else does so?

    1. Usually, this is where the bootlickers bring up the Jack Bauer defense. But if Jack tortured a terrorist or enemy combatant and it actually prevented ISIS from blowing up the Superbowl, no jury on earth would convict him.

  12. Torture! You know what real torture would be? A fucking Libertarian as commander in Chief!

  13. Typical, blaming the woman. Par for the course for white male losers.

    Carry on, sexist clingers.

  14. “In fact, she had an obligation to refuse them. American military and intelligence officials have an affirmative obligation not to obey an illegal order”

    They also have an obligation to obey lawful orders. If the waterboarding was illegal, where are the war crime tribunals?
    I am not making a statement of support for waterboarding, but the author seems to be arguing against his thesis here.

    1. Where were the war crimes trials for other crimes by the powerful?

      1. They are in the alternate universes where the US didn’t win.

        There’s one where we paid for firebombing. One for atomic bombs. One for torture.

        It’s hard to keep them all straight. Damned parallel universes.

  15. I think Trump should have nominated Latka Gravas to head the CIA.

  16. Let Republicans drag Haspel’s battered reputation and deficient character across this finish line if they can (although it seems a tough haul if Rand Paul decides to become a genuine libertarian).

    The next Democratic administration can rectify Pres. Obama’s mistake (showing undeserved mercy) by rounding up all of the torturers (including the enablers) and prosecuting them, using a felony murder theory. Then, if the authoritarian sadists are convicted, the government could line them up and invite NRA volunteers to shoot them.

    1. So, your belief is that it’s only that Obama was too nice, that torturers were not removed from power?

      1. Obama’s leniency was a mistake. It was compounded by the number of authoritarian sadists embedded in our government.

        Torturers should receive justice and absolutely no mercy. Every person who facilitated torture by government should be fired, stripped of pension and other retirement benefits, and prosecuted.

        No libertarian would settle for anything less.

    2. Arty, the people that need to be rounded up are you and your progresssive friends. Every one of you is a goddamned traitor.

      1. Another great one from Elias “where did I suggest violence” Fakaname.

  17. She didn’t say that she was “following orders.” She claimed to have relied on a legal opinion that the program was lawful. There is a significant difference between the two.

    1. What is that difference, exactly?

      1. She isn’t a bleeding heart idiot, and understands the constitution, and what actually constitutes torture. Unlike various posters here who are unable to control their feelings and arrive at the correct conclusion.

      2. Which kind of responsibility, legal or moral, is being dodged.

      3. The Geneva Convention, the international law of war and the primary international ban on torture, already existed at the start of WWII.

        The Nuremberg trials at the end of WWII rejected the defense of “following orders” where the orders were unlawful.

        US Law governing the military recognizes this and soldiers can refuse to follow unlawful orders, but they cannot refuse to follow lawful orders.

        At the time these events happened, the Bush administration had a memo issued from the highest levels of the DOJ declaring that waterboarding and the other “enhanced” interrogation methods being used by the CIA did not fall under the definition of torture under US law, the Geneva Convention, or any other applicable treaties.

        Yes, the reasoning of that memo has been soundly refuted. However, is it fair to expect a relatively low ranking military officer or CIA agent that was overseas to be aware of that?

        What if her participation in the interrogations was from before the memo was refuted? It took a while before even the existence of the memo became public knowledge.

        Do you expect every soldier and CIA agent to know enough about the law to personally refute a legal memo issued by the US Attorney General?

        1. I’d settle for Bush and Cheney being put on trial at The Hague.

        2. A decent person needs no memorandum (or even a statute) to know whether government torture is wrong.

          No decent person participates in, facilitates, appeases, or excuses torture.

          Right-wing jerks seem to like it, though.

      4. The Geneva Convention, the international law of war and the primary international ban on torture, already existed at the start of WWII.

        The Nuremberg trials at the end of WWII rejected the defense of “following orders” where the orders were unlawful.

        US Law governing the military recognizes this and soldiers can refuse to follow unlawful orders, but they cannot refuse to follow lawful orders.

        At the time these events happened, the Bush administration had a memo issued from the highest levels of the DOJ declaring that waterboarding and the other “enhanced” interrogation methods being used by the CIA did not fall under the definition of torture under US law, the Geneva Convention, or any other applicable treaties.

        Yes, the reasoning of that memo has been soundly refuted. However, is it fair to expect a relatively low ranking military officer or CIA agent that was overseas to be aware of that?

        What if her participation in the interrogations was from before the memo was refuted? It took a while before even the existence of the memo became public knowledge.

        Do you expect every soldier and CIA agent to know enough about the law to personally refute a legal memo issued by the US Attorney General?

        1. So, by analogy, a corporate official can rely on an in-house, confidential opinion by the corporation’s counsel to shield himself (or herself) from prosecution for dubious activity?

          1. I’d love to see the federal government accept that defense.

            1. “Yes, the reasoning of that memo has been soundly refuted.”

              Wouldn’t that suggest that the behavior described in the memo *is* criminal?

              Again, would the feds accept this from a private corporation? “It’s all right, their counsel said it was OK, so whatever they did under counsel’s advice until their memo was refuted and withdrawn, is OK.”

          2. It would provide a good shot at refuting mens rea.

  18. “Those who have issues with programs or operations conducted years ago should address those concerns and their questions to ?”

    ? persons lofty enough to risk no consequences from “taking full responsibility”.

  19. Remember when Dick Cheney shot that guy in the face? To this day, the only person who has apologized for that incident is the guy who was shot in the face.

  20. Given that there does exist a debate on if waterboarding equals torture then If a superior legal authority claims the procedure has been reviewed and found legal, ie NOT torture, and given that the subordinate does not have expertise or experience to have reason to refute such a claim, then it is conceivable that she followed orders at the time believing honestly she was not violating some great moral code.

    The Nazi defence is quite different. There was no debate about what was happening to the Jews. They were being murdered based on race flat out. It was “legal” but there could not exist a debate on if it was moral or was somehow classified as something else other than genocide. Waterboarding may not equal torture. Death squads and mass pitts can only equal murder. Not quite the same.

    Doesn’t mean I’m comfortable with her, or that Inknow where I stand on waterboarding. But I also don’t just automatically accept “She’s using the Nazi defence! She’s unequivocally a monster! Burn her at the stake!!!”

    1. If the torture statute is that vague and unclear, let the courts go ahead and declare it unconstitutionally vague.

      In any case, I don’t see a lot of stake-burning in her future.

  21. What difference, at this point, does it make?

    I love the attempts to equate historical legality with current morality. First, neither legal nor moral is a fixed constant. Both have changed over time, and will continue to change.
    Is/was it moral for the senate to pass laws regulating the slave trade?
    Is/was it moral for the US to develop the concept of total war permitting military action against civilian populations and infrastructure because they also had logistical military uses?
    Is/was it moral to end the heartbeat of an infant due solely to its location in a womb?
    I have yet to see where an ‘order’ was issued to use torture; just legal statements that waterboarding was not torture. For myself, I cannot see where at the operative level use of waterboarding, defined as not being torture, was significantly different than firebombing Dresden or Tokyo. The difference is one of scale, not effect. The same is true of atomic weapons.
    Is the use of a targeted drone strike to kill a terrorist morally different from using a B-52 full of 70,000 pounds of bombs dropped on the same target and killing 1,000 of more individuals?
    The question for the Senate is “can this nominee successfully lead the CIA in it’s mission from this point forward?”.

  22. That Dick Cheney has a defective heart and a gay child indicates that there might be a God . . . but if so it’s a lame-ass, impotent, worthless God.

  23. If Gina Haspel is guilty of torture, why are Bush 2 and Cheney in prison?

    1. Sorry, why aren’t Bush 2 and Cheney in prison?

      1. You do understand that there are quite a few people in Washington who should be behind bars, but are not? That George W. Bush and Dick Cheney have never been tried in a court of law doesn’t surprise me……..It becomes a convenient tool of the two-party system to point out the hypocrisy of the other guy and gloss over the facts concerning the person in question. Point out that Democrats vote to approve person X, and now oppose person Y, while hypocritical of them, doesn’t negate what person Y did.

        RR

        1. I certainly do. Do you understand the concept of a rhetorical question? That is one that is asked to make a point, not to get an answer.

  24. 18 U.S.C. ? 2340 (the “Torture Act”)
    An act of torture committed outside the United States by a U.S. national or a non-U.S. national who is present in the United States is punishable under 18 U.S.C. ? 2340. The definition of torture used is as follows:

    As used in this chapter?

    (1) “torture” means an act committed by a person acting under the color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering (other than pain or suffering incidental to lawful sanctions) upon another person within his custody or physical control;
    (2) “severe mental pain or suffering” means the prolonged mental harm caused by or resulting from?
    (A) the intentional infliction or threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering;
    (B) the administration or application, or threatened administration or application, of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality;
    (C) the threat of imminent death; or
    (D) the threat that another person will imminently be subjected to death, severe physical pain or suffering, or the administration or application of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or personality; and
    (3) “United States” means the several states of the United States, the District of Columbia, and the commonwealths, territories, and possessions of the United States.
    Military Commissions Act of 2006

  25. 18 U.S.C. ? 2340 (the “Torture Act”)
    An act of torture committed outside the United States by a U.S. national or a non-U.S. national who is present in the United States is punishable under 18 U.S.C. ? 2340. The definition of torture used is as follows:

    As used in this chapter?

    (1) “torture” means an act committed by a person acting under the color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering (other than pain or suffering incidental to lawful sanctions) upon another person within his custody or physical control;
    (2) “severe mental pain or suffering” means the prolonged mental harm caused by or resulting from?
    (A) the intentional infliction or threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering;
    (B) the administration or application, or threatened administration or application, of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality;
    (C) the threat of imminent death; or
    (D) the threat that another person will imminently be subjected to death, severe physical pain or suffering, or the administration or application of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or personality; and
    (3) “United States” means the several states of the United States, the District of Columbia, and the commonwealths, territories, and possessions of the United States.
    Military Commissions Act of 2006

  26. 18 U.S.C. ? 2340 (the “Torture Act”)
    An act of torture committed outside the United States by a U.S. national or a non-U.S. national who is present in the United States is punishable under 18 U.S.C. ? 2340. The definition of torture used is as follows:

    As used in this chapter?

    (1) “torture” means an act committed by a person acting under the color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering (other than pain or suffering incidental to lawful sanctions) upon another person within his custody or physical control;
    (2) “severe mental pain or suffering” means the prolonged mental harm caused by or resulting from?
    (A) the intentional infliction or threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering;
    (B) the administration or application, or threatened administration or application, of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality;
    (C) the threat of imminent death; or
    (D) the threat that another person will imminently be subjected to death, severe physical pain or suffering, or the administration or application of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or personality; and
    (3) “United States” means the several states of the United States, the District of Columbia, and the commonwealths, territories, and possessions of the United States.
    Military Commissions Act of 2006

    RR

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