As soon as Gina Haspel got the nomination to become CIA director, America’s debate over the use of torture came roaring back. The country has intermittently reckoned with the legacy of the Bush-era programs that sanctioned the disappearance and torture of terrorism suspects—recently, for instance, when then-candidate Trump declared in 2016 that “torture works” and that he wanted to bring back outlawed techniques like waterboarding and “much worse.” And though the CIA stopped using what it called “enhanced interrogation” methods about a decade ago, Haspel was among those who oversaw their use after 9/11.
In 2002, Haspel was in charge of a secret “black site” prison in Thailand where detainees were subject to abusive interrogation techniques. In a 6,700-page classified report on the CIA’s interrogation programs, the Senate Intelligence Committee documented among other things what agency contractors and personnel did at the site to Abu Zubaydah—a Saudi-born Palestinian citizen accused of a “key role” in al-Qaeda, including possible advance knowledge of major attacks—and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri—a Saudi national suspected of involvement in al-Qaeda’s bombing of the American destroyer USS Cole in 2000. In 2018, ProPublica retracted an earlier report that said Haspel ran the site during Abu Zubaydah’s interrogation. Haspel’s tenure began after the Zubaydah episode, according to The New York Times, but coincided with at least some of the torture of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. (Both are now imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, where they are considered “high value” detainees.)
The committee released a declassified summary of its report in 2014. Among other key conclusions, the committee’s majority held that the CIA had not only misled policymakers and the public about the nature of its interrogation programs, but also that the techniques used were ineffective as well as brutal. Though Haspel’s name never appears in the declassified summary, other reports have identified her as having been in charge of the Thailand site, which the summary refers to as “Detention Site Green,” subsequent to the torture of Abu Zubaydah. That site was closed by the end of 2002; it would take another four years for Abu Zubaydah to be transferred from CIA custody to Guantanamo, where he has been incarcerated for more than 11 years.
What follows is an excerpt, lightly edited for length, of the Intelligence Committee’s summary report dealing with what happened at CIA black sites, including at Detention Site Green.
Warning: the extracts from the report are profoundly disturbing.