CIA Director Nominee Supported Destruction of Torture Tapes
CIA nominee Gina Haspel testifies on Capitol Hill on May 9, 2018 in Washington, D.C. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Update: On Thursday, May 17, the Senate confirmed Gina Haspel as director of the CIA, making her the first female leader of the agency.
Testifying on May 9 before the Senate, CIA Director nominee Gina Haspel, an agency veteran with deep links to the agency’s controversial George W. Bush-era “enhanced interrogation” program, said she had supported the CIA’s 2005 decision to destroy 92 videotapes of interrogations said to include the use of techniques widely described as torture.
Haspel drafted the cable ordering the tapes’ destruction at the request of her boss at the time, the CIA’s former top operations officer, Jose Rodriguez. In her testimony on Wednesday, she said that she had “absolutely” been an advocate for the destruction of the tapes “if we could, within and conforming to U.S. law, and if we could get policy concurrence,” because their release would pose a security risk to the officers involved. Haspel said that CIA lawyers had repeatedly said that there was “no legal impediment to disposing of the tapes,” and said a disciplinary review by former CIA deputy director, Michael Morell, found no fault with her actions.
When asked whether she would still support Rodriguez’s order to destroy the videotapes today, she said, “I would not,” adding “experience is a good teacher, and the piece that was missing from the tapes was making sure that we had all the stakeholders’ concurrence.” Haspel also said that if confirmed, she would not restart the interrogation program.
FRONTLINE went inside the saga of the destroyed tapes in the 2015 documentary Secrets, Politics and Torture, which explored the CIA’s use of so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” on terrorism suspects in the wake of 9/11, as well as the agency’s dramatic fight to try to hide its program from the public.
“I was told if those videotapes had ever been seen, the reaction around the world would not have been survivable,” Jane Mayer, a New Yorker reporter, told FRONTLINE. “So the CIA is in a panic. They’ve got these red-hot videotapes on their hands.”
In the clip from Secrets, Politics and Torture below, FRONTLINE tells the story of why Rodriguez ordered the destruction of the tapes:
For more on the CIA’s controversial and now-shuttered enhanced interrogation program, watch Secrets, Politics and Torture in full.
This story was updated on Thursday, May 17.