Editor’s Note: On Thursday night, ProPublica retracted the portion of their story that stated that Gina Haspel, Trump’s pick to head the CIA, was head of the black site in Thailand during the waterboarding of Abu Zubaydah. According to the New York Times, she arrived in October 2002.
Last year, ProPublica reporter Raymond Bonner published a story about the August, 2002 interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, a Palestinian man the CIA believed was a top al Qaeda lieutenant. The report describes the “enhanced interrogation techniques” employed at a secret CIA “black site” prison in Thailand: As the CIA’s video cameras rolled, security guards shackled Abu Zubaydah to a gurney and interrogators poured water over his mouth and nose until he began to suffocate. They slammed him against a wall, confined him for hours in a coffin-like box, and deprived him of sleep.
As Bonner describes, the CIA’s “chief of base” or “COB,” Gina Haspel – who was just named Trump’s head of the CIA – “mocked” Zubaydah’s complaints and accused him of faking.
That the Bush administration relied upon some of Zubaydah’s statements as justifications for invading Iraq is well known by now. Here’s ProPublica on why Zubaydah might not have been such a great source: “It was clear that CIA analysts were wrong when they had identified Zubaydah as the number three or four in al-Qaida after Osama bin Laden. The waterboarding failed to elicit valuable intelligence not because he was holding back, but because he was not a member of al-Qaida, and had no knowledge of any plots against the United States.”
A trove of CIA cables about this idiotic incident came to light, among other things, as a result of a lawsuit, Salim v. Mitchell, in which the ACLU targeted the psychologists behind the CIA “torture” program. The “COB” comes up more than a few times in these cables.
There are bound to be a lot of excerpts from these cables circulating in the news today, but one in particular stands out. It describes the attitude of the U.S. officials – presumably including Haspel – toward Zubaydah’s future:
Good to know we can make decisions like that about people whenever we feel like it! And we wonder why people around the world hate us so much.