Gina Haspel Observed Waterboarding at C.I.A. Black Site, Psychologist Testifies

WASHINGTON — During Gina Haspel’s affirmation listening to to turn into director of the C.I.A. in 2018, Senator Dianne Feinstein requested her if she had overseen the interrogations of a Saudi prisoner, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, which included the usage of a waterboard.

Ms. Haspel declined to reply, saying it was a part of her labeled profession.

While there was reporting about her oversight of a C.I.A. black web site in Thailand the place Mr. Nashiri was waterboarded, and the place Ms. Haspel wrote or approved memos about his torture, the exact particulars of her work because the chief of base, the C.I.A. officer who oversaw the jail, have been shrouded in official secrecy.

But testimony at a listening to final month in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, included a revelation concerning the former C.I.A. director’s lengthy and secretive profession. James E. Mitchell, a psychologist who helped develop the company’s interrogation program, testified that the chief of base at the time, whom he known as Z9A in accordance with court docket guidelines, watched whereas he and a teammate subjected Mr. Nashiri to “enhanced interrogation” that included waterboarding at the black web site.

Z9A is the code title utilized in court docket for Ms. Haspel.

The C.I.A. has by no means acknowledged Ms. Haspel’s work at the black web site, and the usage of the code title represented the court docket’s acceptance of an company coverage of not acknowledging state secrets and techniques — even people who have already been spilled. Former officers way back revealed that she ran the black web site in Thailand from October 2002 till December 2002, through the time Mr. Nashiri was being tortured, which Dr. Mitchell described in his testimony.

Guantánamo Bay is without doubt one of the few locations the place America continues to be wrestling with the legacy of torture within the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, assaults. Torture has loomed over the pretrial section of the dying penalty circumstances for years and is more likely to proceed to take action as hearings resume over the summer time.

Defense groups have been asking navy judges to exclude sure proof from the warfare crimes trials of accused Qaeda operatives as tainted by not simply torture but additionally merciless, inhuman and degrading remedy. In May, that meant revisiting what occurred almost 20 years in the past at the key jail in Thailand.

Dr. Mitchell described how in late 2002 he and one other C.I.A. contract psychologist, John Bruce Jessen, waterboarded Mr. Nashiri, who’s accused of orchestrating the bombing of the Navy destroyer Cole in 2000. Seventeen American sailors have been killed within the assault.

During three separate periods, Dr. Mitchell held a material over the person’s face and adjusted it to direct the water as Dr. Jessen poured.

Dr. Mitchell testified that Mr. Nashiri was so small that they thought he would possibly slide out of his Velcro restraints throughout parts of the waterboarding. To let Mr. Nashiri breathe between pours, interrogators pivoted him 90 levels, from mendacity on his again to a standing place, nonetheless strapped to a gurney.

The interrogation group shifted to different “coercive strategies,” together with forcing the prisoner to spend time in a small confinement field. Dr. Mitchell stated he had a “basic reminiscence of what was achieved” — the detainee, who was nude and typically hooded, was in all probability slapped and had the again of his head slammed right into a burlap-covered wall — however testified that he didn’t have a “blow-by-blow recollection of any of that stuff.”

It was beforehand identified that by the point Mr. Nashiri was waterboarded in late 2002, Ms. Haspel had taken over because the chief of base at the key jail in Thailand. It has additionally been reported that she drafted cables relating what occurred to Mr. Nashiri and what was discovered throughout his interrogations and debriefings.

But Dr. Mitchell’s testimony went additional. He testified that the chief of base noticed the periods, although she didn’t take part in them.

The regulation agency that employs Ms. Haspel, King & Spalding L.L.P., declined to remark and referred inquiries to the C.I.A., which additionally declined to remark.

Dr. Mitchell by no means talked about the particular person by title. Instead, as a result of she was serving in a clandestine function at the time, he was required to check with the chief of base as Z9A, or, as one lawyer sounded it out, “Zulu Nine Alpha.”

The codes are a part of the choreography of the hearings at Guantánamo Bay, the place the court docket has a mute button to guard towards inadvertent disclosures of labeled data and prosecutors work with the C.I.A. to maintain official secrets and techniques out of the general public report.

Prosecutors within the death-penalty circumstances, working with members of the intelligence neighborhood, assigned alphanumeric codes to most C.I.A. employees members who labored at the black websites. Nations the place the C.I.A. had prisons are referred to by numbers. For Dr. Mitchell’s listening to, prosecutors supplied him with a secret checklist of names and alphanumerics — a key of types that attorneys in court docket known as “a crosswalk.”

For instance, Dr. Mitchell referred to the company’s chief interrogator in 2002, who died not lengthy after he oversaw a few of Mr. Nashiri’s harshest interrogations, as NX2.

And though Ms. Haspel’s function as chief of base at the black web site in Thailand is broadly identified, it’s nonetheless thought-about a state secret.

The decide, Col. Lanny J. Acosta Jr., agreed to permit Dr. Mitchell to testify as a result of the C.I.A. had destroyed videotapes that protection attorneys argue confirmed the psychologists torturing and interrogating Mr. Nashiri and one other prisoner at the black web site in Thailand. Defense attorneys stated that disadvantaged them of potential proof, together with one thing they may have needed to point out a navy jury deciding whether or not to impose a dying penalty.

The disclosure that the C.I.A. had destroyed the tapes — most of them exhibiting Abu Zubaydah, the primary detainee taken into custody and identified to be tortured by the C.I.A. after the Sept. 11 assaults — prompted the Senate Intelligence Committee to research the black web site program.

Ms. Haspel has acknowledged her function within the destruction of these tapes as a chief of employees to the operations chief, Jose A. Rodriguez Jr. At her affirmation listening to, she said, “I might additionally clarify that I didn’t seem on the tapes.”

Observers at the location in Thailand watched waterboarding and different interrogations through a closed-circuit video feed to a separate room. At one level, the C.I.A. despatched some employees members to the black web site to observe the waterboarding of Abu Zubaydah. But, Dr. Mitchell testified, Ms. Haspel was not amongst them.

The Senate Intelligence Committee research of the C.I.A. program, solely part of which is public, stated that interrogators needed to cease utilizing “enhanced interrogation strategies” on Mr. Nashiri as a result of he was answering direct questions, however they have been overruled by headquarters.

Mr. Nashiri would even be tortured later, after Dr. Mitchell had taken him to a unique C.I.A. black web site. Another interrogator revved a drill subsequent to the bare detainee’s hooded head, apparently to attempt to get him to expose Qaeda plots. At one other black web site in 2004, the C.I.A. infused a dietary complement into his rectum for refusing to eat. His Navy lawyer has called the procedure rape.

At her affirmation listening to, Ms. Haspel pledged to not arrange any comparable interrogation packages.


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