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. (Both are now imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, where they are considered “high value” detainees.)