Gina Haspel and the torture tapes

It turns out that Gina Haspel, the current temporary Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, gave the order to shred the tapes that recorded the tortuous interrogation of captives by the CIA. Should that be held against her? Probably not.

When Haspel was in charge of a facility where torture was going on, the behavior was approved by the White House and the reason it was electronically recorded was because multiple governmental agencies had opted for electronic record keeping in the interest of efficiency. The DoD probably did not start it, but at some point it was apparently considered an improvement over written after-action reports.

Moreover, it was assumed that electronic communications, whether of images or text, could be, unlike written documents which have to be preserved, eliminated like telephone calls, which only have to be logged, not recorded by governmental agents.

This assumption was challenged when the survivors of torture by the military brought a law suit in a U.S. court and they insisted on having the video recordings of their torture brought into evidence. Those law suits, as far as I know, have been held in abeyance because President Obama bought the DoD argument that making the pictorial evidence public would “inflame public opinion” and put the troops in jeopardy.

What seems to have happened then was that, in addition to the FBI refusing to psrticipate in what was going on at Guantanamo, where the CIA was also engaged in torture, the lawyers for the captives insisted on the electronic records of their experience being produced and that is when it was revealed the CIA had destroyed the records and an appeal to the SCOTUS brought down the judgement that electronic records are not exempt from the preservation requirement.

This same issue was, of course, central to the kerfuffle over Senator Clinton’s private electronic mail server which was supposed to segregate her private communications from her official ones, just as Colin Powell had done and as the GWB White House did, even as GWB himself abjured using electronic mail at all.

But, will this matter be discussed on Capitol Hill? I doubt it. Rand Paul has already tried to change the subject by asking about CIA tracking of the Trump retinue. The whole electronic record keeping is a can of worms that the denizens of Capitol Hill want to avoid. After all, the ruling that electronic records have to be kept has led to the House setting up filters so that their offices only accept “mail” from constituents, while Senators have opted to accept communications from anyone that uses their official forms and thus becomes liable to being asked for donations and having personal information “sold” to campaign managers.

Nobody is eager to have electronic communications discussed in public. They don’t even want record-keeping discussed in public. Just imagine if ordinary people started filing FOIA requests to see if their missives have been properly archived! And what if it were to be admitted that nothing on the internet is secure from being intercepted and inspected! There goes their vaunted privacy and secrecy, the key to power.