18 April 2018

Putting a Torturer in Charge of the CIA?

Gina Haspel was nominated to head the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. The U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is scheduled to question Ms. Haspel next week and is expected to recommend her confirmation to that post shortly thereafter. Here is the email I sent to U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley today:

Dear Sen. Merkley,

I write to express my unwavering opposition to the nomination of Gina Haspel as Director of Central Intelligence. To have a Director so publicly associated with torture can only tarnish the reputation of our government and intensify distrust and fear of our nation throughout the world.

As a combat veteran of the Viet Nam War, the very thought disgusts and frightens me. The Golden Rule is our troops' only protection from mistreatment when taken as prisoners of war; if we mistreat our prisoners, we lose the moral high ground to object to our own troops being mistreated. Gina Haspel demonstrably does not believe in the Golden Rule.

Ms Haspel is only a nominee because former President Barack Obama deliberately disregarded our nation's legal obligation to prosecute our own war criminals such as Gina Haspel. Following World War II, we prosecuted as war criminals Japanese officials who engaged in waterboarding of American prisoners. The lightest punishment inflicted was a prison sentence of 15 years. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2014/12/16/cheneys-claim-that-the-u-s-did-not-prosecute-japanese-soldiers-for-waterboarding/
Under Nuremburg Principle IV, "The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him." My understanding is that as chief of station for the CIA black site in Thailand, Gina Haspel had authority to end the torture but chose not to use it. She had a moral choice. Therefore, she has no "Good German," following-orders defense.

Had Mr. Obama done what he was required to do under international law (and presuming punishment at least as severely as we meted out to the Japanese), Ms. Haspel would still be in prison, would be disgraced, and would certainly not be nominated to head the CIA. Mr. Obama's miscarriage of justice should not justify another, confirming Gina Haspel as Director of Central Intelligence.

The appearance of justice matters.

Best regards,

Paul E. Merrell, J.D.

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