President Donald Trump’s decision this week to nominate Gina Haspel—an intelligence official civil libertarians argue “should be in jail” for her role in the Bush administration’s torture regime—as the next CIA chief has illuminated something of a spectrum of torture apologists among America’s political elite.
Placing herself firmly on the far-right end of this spectrum on Tuesday was Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wy.), daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, who tweeted a proud defense of the CIA’s euphemistically-named torture program at Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who argued the Senate should closely scrutinize Haspel’s role in overseeing the torture of detainees at U.S. black sites overseas.
In openly praising the Bush torture regime and the “brave men and women” who carried it out, Cheney differentiated her position from that of many Washington establishment figures who have defended Haspel’s role in overseeing the Bush torture program this week, on the grounds that she was merely “following orders.”
“Gina Haspel disgraced herself by participating in the CIA torture program and the destruction of criminal evidence. We do not believe she should be director of the CIA. Rather, she should be in jail.”
—Wells Dixon, Center on Constitutional Rights
For instance, former CIA director Michael Hayden wrote in an op-ed for The Hill on Wednesday that Haspel’s “role in CIA’s counterterrorism program” should not be cause for concern, as she was merely doing “nothing more and nothing less than what the nation and the agency asked her to do.”
Highlighting several similar examples in an article for The Intercept on Thursday, Jon Schwartz argues the defense of Haspel offered by Hayden, former Obama officials, and some lawmakers is precisely the defense Nazis used during the Nuremberg trials following the Second World War.
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