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CIA Chief observed torture of Saudi detainee 'raped' by US interrogators

CIA Director Gina Haspel testifies at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on "Worldwide Threats" January 29, 2019 in Washington, DC. [Win McNamee/Getty Images]
CIA Director Gina Haspel testifies at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on "Worldwide Threats" January 29, 2019 in Washington, DC. [Win McNamee/Getty Images]

Former director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Gina Haspel, observed the torture of Saudi prisoner, Abd Al-Rahim Al-Nashiri, according to new testimony at a hearing last month in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, by psychologist, James E Mitchell, who helped develop the Agency's interrogation program.

Mitchell disclosed details about Haspel's long and secretive career, including her time as the Chief of Base at the CIA black site in Thailand in 2002, where Al-Nashiri was tortured. According to details of Mitchell's testimony in the New York Times, Haspel watched while an interrogator and a team-mate subjected Al-Nashiri to "enhanced interrogation" which included water-boarding at the black site.

Read: CIA tortured 9/11 detainee as prop to teach interrogation techniques

Mitchell's testimony confirmed long-held speculations about the use of torture in CIA black sites in Thailand under Haspel's watch. In 2018, during her confirmation hearing for the Director of the CIA, she declined to answer questions about whether she had overseen the interrogations of Al-Nashiri. Haspel claimed that because it was part of her classified work, she in unable to disclose such information.

The precise details of Haspel's work while serving as the Chief of Base has been shrouded in mystery ever since. Mitchell's testimony has made it possible to connect the dots. The psychologist did not mention Haspel by name, but said that the Chief of Base at the time, whom he referred to as Z9A in accordance with court rules, watched while Al-Nashiri was being tortured.

Read: British spies allegedly complicit in CIA torture are subject to UK law, judges rule

Z9A is the code name used in court for Haspel. This is said to be normal practice in court to conceal state secrets — even those that have already been spilled. Former officials, long ago, revealed that she ran the black site in Thailand from October 2002 until December 2002, during the time Al-Nashiri was being tortured.

Describing the interrogation of Al-Nashiri two decades ago, Mitchell said that he and another CIA contract psychologist, John Bruce Jessen, water-boarded the Saudi prisoner, who is accused of orchestrating the bombing of the Navy destroyer, Cole, in 2000. Al-Nashiri was not only water-boarded he was stripped nude, hooded, slapped and had the back of his head slammed into a wall.

Nashiri was also subjected to torture after Mitchell had taken him to a different CIA black site where another interrogator revved a drill next to his hooded head, apparently to try to get him to divulge Al-Qaeda plots. At another black site in 2004, the CIA infused a dietary supplement into his rectum for refusing to eat. His Navy lawyer has called the procedure rape.

At her confirmation hearing, Haspel pledged not to set up any similar interrogation programs.

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