I do not know Gina Haspel. Although we were at the CIA at the same time. She just lasted longer than me. Some of my former colleagues refer to her as “Bloody Gina” for her role in the so-called Enhanced Interrogation program. What most of the world fails to understand about this period is that the CIA had zero experience with “interrogation” and found itself starting from ground zero in the aftermath of the 2001 terrorist attacks. The CIA operators, i.e., those men and women who operate overseas trying to recruit foreigners to spy for us, are trained in the art of recruitment. This is akin to picking up a woman in a bar and convincing her to have sex with you. It is not rape. It should not be forced nor coerced.
Gina went through the same training I did at the Farm and experienced the “Resistance to Interrogation” course (but we trained at different times). This particular training was offered as part of the paramilitary course and was designed to prepare CIA overseas operators for the possibility that they might be taken hostage or captured. The course included a field exercise where we were taken hostage and subjected to methods of the euphemistically described “Enhanced Interrogation” procedures. There was no waterboarding but we were forced to stand in place for 48 hours, deprived of sleep, subjected to noise bombardment, shoved into claustrophobically small boxes and deprived of food and drink. None of this was later described as “effective” techniques for getting people to talk. In fact, the instructors generally conceded that such practices were counterproductive.
When the CIA found itself tasked by George W. Bush to take on the mission of “interrogating” captured terrorists they improvised and, believe it or not, turned to Hollywood mythology to discover the “truth” about how to get information out of reluctant subjects. Gina Haspel was not a key player in the interrogation program nor its implementation. She was a mid-level functionary who, like a good German, just followed orders. Trying to pin the abuses of that program on her is nothing short of chickenshit hindsight. She was not the decision maker. Period.
Some of the heat directed at her is over her role in the destruction of the tape/tapes of one of the interrogations in Thailand, apparently of Abu Zubaydah. The decision to destroy the tape/tapes was taken by Jose Rodriguez, not Gina Haspel. Gina drafted the cable telling the field officers to destroy the tapes. She should have protested the order to write the cable? Fat assholes in the comfort of their barca loungers, with the benefit of perfect hindsight, can insist she should have refused. I do not think she did anything wrong.
My actual beef with Gina is more simple. Did she lie on her 1985 polygraph? Back then there were specific questions about your sexual preferences and activities. She was asked if she was a homosexual. She said no. How do I know? Because, if she had said yes she would not have been hired. It is now common knowledge with CIA circles that she is a lesbian. If her decision to come out as a lesbian was subsequent to the polygraph then maybe she did not lie. But I would like one of the Senators to ask her in private about this matter. Did she beat the polygraph 33 years ago?
I give Ms. Haspel credit for laying down a marker that will keep Donald Trump from using the CIA ever again in the dirty work of using “enhanced methods” to extract information from terrorist suspects. She is making it clear that this should be the work of the Department of Defense. Hot potato passed.
Left unsaid at today’s hearing is the fact that the top members of Congress, both Republicans and Democrats, were briefed on the Enhanced Interrogation program and gave two thumbs up. But exposing hypocrisy in Washington is akin to discovering gambling in a casino. It is the raison d’être of Washington.