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If Gina Haspel Is Confirmed at CIA, the U.S. Would Be Giving Other Nations Green Light to Torture

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Former Vice President Dick Cheney said Thursday that the U.S. should restart torture interrogation tactics. Cheney’s comment comes a day after President Trump’s nominee to head the CIA, Gina Haspel, repeatedly refused Wednesday to call the CIA’s post-9/11 treatment of prisoners “torture,” and declined to state whether she believes torture is immoral. Haspel’s prospects for confirmation remain in doubt, after Republican senators Rand Paul of Kentucky and John McCain of Arizona issued statements opposing her nomination. We speak to Laleh Khalili, professor at SOAS University of London and author of “Time in the Shadows: Confinement in Counterinsurgencies.”

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Laleh Khalili, finally, the issue of Gina Haspel—

LALEH KHALILI: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: —to be head of the CIA.

LALEH KHALILI: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: You have written a number of books, and, specifically, your book Time in the Shadows is about torture.

LALEH KHALILI: Yes, it is.

AMY GOODMAN: Your thoughts on what she has done? You specifically look at black sites.

LALEH KHALILI: I do specifically look at black sites, and it is incredibly harrowing. What is very devastating about what this—what her nomination has done is to essentially rubber-stamp the use of completely and utterly brutal and harrowing modalities of torture on people, whether or not they’re guilty. There is never a sort of a legal process that will allow us to adjudicate whether these people are in any way culpable of anything. And, in fact, loads of innocent people have been subjected to these black sites.

Now, what is ironic, of course, is that Gina Haspel’s confirmation hearing was happening on exactly the same day that the British government was apologizing, was issuing an official apology, to Abdelhakim Belhaj and his wife, Fatima Boudchar. And Fatima Boudchar had been four months pregnant—sorry, she had been several months pregnant, but for four months she had been held in Thailand, presumably under the reign of Gina Haspel while she ran the Thai black sites there.

Now, what her confirmation, should it proceed, is going to signal is that all of those countries in the world that acted as black sites—a number of those countries are members of NATO and Eastern—they’re Eastern European states, members of NATO, but which are also members of the EU, had their wrists slapped by the EU, and among them, more specifically, Poland and Romania. But those that are not part of the EU and were engaged in these kinds of—and they allowed their territories to be used as black sites—Thailand foremost among them, but there were others—as well as those countries that acted as countries of extraordinary rendition—for example, Jordan, Morocco, Egypt and, in fact, Syria even—all of these countries are essentially going to see this as a carte blanche for conducting torture—not that they ever really needed it, but this is essentially—I mean, one of the things that one hears all the time in the Middle East is, “Well, if the U.S. is doing it, why does anybody care about why Sisi would do it?” And so, I think that, in some ways, it would be an utter travesty, although completely unsurprising, if Gina Haspel is chosen to head the CIA.

AMY GOODMAN: Laleh Khalili, we want to thank you for being with us, professor at SOAS University of London, author of a number of books, including Time in the Shadows: Confinement in Counterinsurgencies. We ask you to stay with us.

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