Make Them Hear You! Torture and the CIA

Make Them Hear You! is a weekly feature on KGNU, produced by Chris Mohr, letting listeners know how they can have their voices heard on issues up before Congress. You can hear it Wednesday mornings at 8.20am during the Morning Magazine.


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The Me Too movement has brought down powerful men in almost every area of society, from politicians to people in the arts and entertainment business to all kinds of other workplaces. As a society we are finally drawing a line and saying it doesn’t matter how great an opera conductor you are, or how good your movies are, or your political stands, if you are a sexual predator, you aren’t allowed to stay in your workplace. There needs to be a Me Too movement for victims of torture as well. The US has a long and sordid history of employing torture. Presidents Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama have fought to eliminate it. President Ronald Reagan presided over an era of torture in Central America, making countries like El Salvador a literal hell on earth in the 1980s. George W. Bush’s administration called the anti-torture provisions of the Geneva Convention “quaint,” and set up a program of torture in third-party countries.

Now we have Donald Trump, who as a presidential candidate advocated “much worse” torture than waterboarding. He has nominated Gina Haspel, a supporter and practitioner of torture, to be the new head of the CIA. Her supporters argue that she has support in the CIA, and that she has a long and distinguished career there.

Last week, she offered to walk away from the position in order to avoid a contentious and uncertain Senate nomination process, but Donald Trump convinced her to stay on board. Confirmation hearings start today.

Haspel oversaw a CIA “dark site” — essentially a secret prison — in Thailand where officials used waterboarding and other torture techniques that are clearly banned. Then Haspel helped to destroy more than 100 tapes containing evidence of torture committed by U.S. officials. Human rights organizations strongly oppose Gina Haspel’s nomination and have even called for her arrest.

Defeating Haspel is a real possibility. But the voice of conscience of the Republican Party, John McCain, who was himself tortured in Vietnam, may be too sick to come to Washington to cast his vote.

Sen. McCain, said, “The Japanese were tried and convicted and hung for war crimes committed against American POWs. Among those charges for which they were convicted was waterboarding. And in the Nuremburg trials, criminal prosecutions by the American military specifically included waterboarding.  The torture of detainees in U.S. custody during the last decade was one of the darkest chapters in American history. Ms. Haspel needs to explain the nature and extent of her involvement in the CIA’s interrogation program during the confirmation.”

Harvey Weinstein made some great movies, and James Levine conducted some great operas. But the Me Too movement has created a line in the sand for sexual predators. Human rights advocates say we need a line in the sand for torturers as well.  If you have thoughts about the confirmation of Gina Haspel for the CIA, you can contact your Senators, today if possible.

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