Video: Andy Worthington Discusses Guantánamo’s 17th Anniversary and Gina Haspel’s War Crimes as a Torturer on RT


A screenshot of Andy Worthington discussing Guantanamo, black sites and Gina Haspel with Scottie Nell Hughes on RT America on January 15, 2019.

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On my recent US visit to call for the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay on and around the 17th anniversary of its opening, I was interviewed for RT in New York on January 15, and have only just found the video, which is posted below. I appeared on ‘News. Views. Hughes,’ which the channel describes as “a special daily afternoon broadcast hosted by journalist and political commentator Scottie Nell Hughes.”

Hughes was a paid CNN commentator and vocal Donald Trump supporter during the 2016 presidential election, and, as GQ explained in an article in 2016, “served as one of Trump’s most faithful and pervasive campaign surrogates” on the campaign trail. Her questioning showed an effort to challenge my assessment of the situation at Guantánamo, but, as a long-standing campaigner for the closure of the prison, it isn’t difficult for me to point out that only dictators hold people indefinitely without charge or trial, and that the American people deserve better from their leaders, who are supposed to have a fundamental respect for the rule of law.

I also discussed the unsuitability of Gina Haspel to be the director of the CIA — something that was abundantly clear to me throughout the period of her nomination an her eventual confirmation, and which I wrote about at the time in two articles, The Torture Trail of Gina Haspel Makes Her Unsuitable to be Director of the CIA and Torture on Trial in the US Senate, as the UK Government Unreservedly Apologizes for Its Role in Libyan Rendition.

The six-minute video is below, via YouTube, and I’m pleased to note that it’s had 3,800 views to date:

What was unacceptable, of course, as I explained to Scottie Nell Hughes, was that Haspel had, for part of its existence, been in charge of the CIA’s first post-9/11 “black site,” in Thailand, where torture took place. Torture, of course, was the sole purpose of the ”black sites,” and yet the narrative that was pushed by her supporters seemed to indicate that when she was in charge nothing bad had happened. This was patently absurd, but the even bigger problem with it was that appointing someone so intimately involved with the torture program, after the extraordinary Senate Intelligence Committee report of 2014, which had found it astonishingly brutal and counter-productive, sent exactly the wrong message to the world, to the CIA itself, and to the American people. We clearly live in times when there is no appetite for actually punishing torturers, but actively promoting them to be the director of the CIA is another matter.

At the time of my visit to RT, Haspel was back in the news because information had surfaced adding further weight to the assessment of her unsuitability, indicating that she had also run a “black site” that existed within Guantánamo from the fall of 2003 to the spring of 2004, when it was shut down and the prisoners moved elsewhere because the authorities realized that the Supreme Court was about to grant habeas corpus rights to the Guantánamo prisoners held by the military. That decision, Rasul v. Bush, delivered in June 2004, pierced the veil of secrecy that had allowed torture to take place at the prison, and that had also shielded the “black site” from scrutiny.

As McClatchy’s Carol Rosenberg explained, Rita Radostitz, a lawyer for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, told a judge in a secret session last year that Haspel had run the “black site” at Guantánamo, which was given the name Strawberry Fields. As Rosenberg described it, “Defense lawyers were arguing, in a motion that ultimately failed, that Haspel’s role at the prison precludes the possibility of a fair trial for the men accused of orchestrating the 9/11 attacks who were also held for years in covert CIA prisons. Neither the public nor the accused was allowed to attend the hearing but, following an intelligence review, the Pentagon released portions of its transcript on a war court website.”

Following McClatchy’s revelations, the anti-torture investigator Jeffrey Kaye added another twist to the story, noting that, “Strangely, neither Rosenberg or anyone else reporting on the new development noted that Radostitz also claimed that Haspel had been present at yet another CIA black site, this one in Poland.”

Kaye explained that Radostitz told the court, “we request permission to provide information to the Senate Select Committee that Gina Haspel was in Site Blue,” the code name for the Polish “black site,” as revealed in the Senate Intelligence Committee report.

As Kaye further explained, however, “It is not clear that anyone in Congress ever got Radostitz’s information.” As he explained, “During the Senate confirmation process of President Trump’s nomination of Haspel as CIA director, four Democratic senators on the committee wrote to the Director of National Intelligence, Daniel Coats, asking him to ‘declassify all Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) information related to any involvement by Ms. Gina Haspel, the current Acting Director of the CIA, in the CIA’s Rendition, Detention, and Interrogation program.’”

Despite the request, “Nothing concerning Haspel’s work or presence at any CIA black sites except the ‘Cat’s Eye’ site in Thailand was ever mentioned during Haspel’s confirmation process for CIA director.”

As a result of the above, it is clear that the stench of criminality clings to Gina Haspel, a stench replicated in other aspects of Donald Trump’s appointments; in, for example, the appointment of the profoundly untrustworthy figure of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, a nomination that also attracted ferocious criticism, and which I wrote about in an article entitled, Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s Supreme Court Nomination, Has a Dangerous Track Record of Defending Guantánamo and Unfettered Executive Power.

As for RT, after my interview on January 15, I returned to the New York studios the next day for a much more detailed interview with Chris Hedges for his ‘On Contact’ show, which will be broadcast in a couple of weeks’ time, and which I will, of course, let you know about as soon as it is available. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the video above, and that you’ll share it if you find it useful.

* * * * *

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose music is available via Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and see the latest photo campaign here) and the successful We Stand With Shaker campaign of 2014-15, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (click on the following for Amazon in the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US), and for his photo project ‘The State of London’ he publishes a photo a day from six years of bike rides around the 120 postcodes of the capital.

In 2017, Andy became very involved in housing issues. He is the narrator of a new documentary film, ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’, about the destruction of council estates, and the inspiring resistance of residents, he wrote a song ‘Grenfell’, in the aftermath of the entirely preventable fire in June 2017 that killed over 70 people, and he also set up ‘No Social Cleansing in Lewisham’ as a focal point for resistance to estate destruction and the loss of community space in his home borough in south east London. For two months, from August to October 2018, he was part of the occupation of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford, to prevent its destruction — and that of 16 structurally sound council flats next door — by Lewisham Council and Peabody. Although the garden was violently evicted by bailiffs on October 29, 2018, the resistance continues.

To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, The Complete Guantánamo Files, the definitive Guantánamo habeas list, the full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.

Please also consider joining the Close Guantánamo campaign, and, if you appreciate Andy’s work, feel free to make a donation.

21 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my latest article, linking to my appearance on RT America with Scottie Nell Hughes on January 15, during my US visit to call for the closure of the prison at Guantanamo Bay on and around the 17th anniversary of its opening. As well as discussing Guantanamo, we also spoke about further evidence of the unsuitability of Gina Haspel to be the director of the CIA – the revelation that she was in charge of a CIA “black site” within Guantanamo that existed from the fall of 2003 until spring 2004. I also refer to an additional article by anti-torture investigator Jeffrey Kaye indicating that Haspel also had a role in running the notorious “black site” in Poland.

    I’m under no illusion that anyone in the Trump administration cares about what a terrible message it sends to the world to have appointed someone so intimately involved in the post-9/11 torture program to such a senior position, but for the rest of us these new revelations only add to the fundamental shame of Gina Haspel leading the agency that was so soundly condemned for its torture program in 2014’s Senate Intelligence Committee report.

  2. Tom says...

    Why won’t Haspel be forced to resign for the time being?:

    The CIA pr spin machine went into overdrive during her confirmation hearings. So many staffers just love her, etc.
    Congress (along w/Trump and others in the WH) are scared to death of the CIA. Why else did Obama (a constitutional lawyer) allow CIA personnel to torture and destroy evidence w/out prosecution? Because he’s convinced that the CIA killed Kennedy. So why wouldn’t they do the same to him? Now of course he’ll never publically admit that. But what else could it be?
    Yes, I know it’s up to us to not stop fighting until she’s gone. I’m just saying realistically it won’t happen overnight.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Malcolm Bush wrote:

    Thank you Andy for this update, you do wonderful work, related to issues that otherwise may have going unnoticed. Stepping back and looking at the international political situation at the moment, there could be ‘mission creep’ regards black sites and so forth.

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Good to hear from you, Malcolm, and thanks for the supportive words. I think we definitely need to be concerned about “mission creep.” Check out Spencer Ackerman’s latest article, published just three days ago, about the presence of US operatives in Yemeni torture prisons:

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Shahela Begum wrote:

    That TV anchor was so extremely annoying, it was clear she had no background information about Guantanamo before posing her questions to you. She sounds like the typical red neck American who goes on lies of what Bush had declared. Thank you for so gracefully pointing out that we need to do things by justice and not fear.

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Thank you very much for your comments, Shahela – and sorry we didn’t get to meet on my recent visit. So yes, Scottie Nell Hughes’ questioning was definitely quite unfocussed – and she clearly was also trying to defend the George W. Bush/default US establishment point of view when it comes to Guantanamo. That’s always interesting, because it gives me something to react against, but it did strike me as slightly odd that she has this position at RT!

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Julie Alley wrote:

    Thank you Andy for all the great work that you do. Thank you for “practicing justice!”

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    And thank you, Julie, for your constant support!

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Jeffrey Kaye wrote:

    No one has been on the torture beat longer than Andy Worthington. Here are his latest observations on the scandals surrounding Gina Haspel’s accession to CIA director. He, unique among the press and commentators at this time, notes my finding that Haspel was present at CIA black site in Poland, the third such covert torture prison she can be placed at. As I told Peter B. Collins, in an interview to be posted soon to, “three strikes and you’re out!” – While I have no faith in reforming the CIA, as a matter of elemental decency, Haspel should be removed, and an investigation launched into what was known by Senators about her real history.

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    Good to hear from you, Jeffrey. I’m very much hoping that more evidence will surface of her involvement in the torture program. Her appointment is really one of the worst aspects of what Donald Trump has done to the US government.

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    Natalia R Scott wrote, of Gina Haspel:

    She’s evil

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    You do have to wonder, Natalia, don’t you, about how these ambitious career officials think. I find a particularly nasty crossover point where patriotism and sadism collide, and Gina Haspel may well be one of those who has spent her career in that place.

  13. Andy Worthington says...

    Natalia R Scott wrote:

    Andy I agree completely and honestly I think, after reading a lot, that she’s capable of a lot of evil things.

  14. Andy Worthington says...

    I think that’s the blunt truth about the torture program, Natalia. No one with any decency should have been involved with it, and those who were involved must have ended up severely morally contaminated unless they walked away from what they had been obliged to do. Gina Haspel clearly wasn’t in this latter category.

  15. Andy Worthington says...

    Natalia R Scott wrote:

    And no accountability whatsoever, only promotions.

  16. Andy Worthington says...

    Of course, Natalia, yes. It’s such a disgrace for Trump and the CIA and the Republicans to have been able to sweep aside the conclusions of the Senate Intelligence Committee torture report, which should have ensured that no one intimately involved with the program would ever end up in the top job.

  17. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for your thoughts, Tom. It’s interesting to reflect on what happened in Obama’s first five months in office. He released three previously unreleased torture memos in April 2009, but after that the institutional backlash began, although whether the threats were tacit or more openly made is impossible to say. What’s clear, however, is that he never fundamentally rocked the boat again.

  18. Tom says...

    A suggestion. Your work is important, and who you deal with in the media is your business. But as you do, please keep this in mind re: RT US. All of their US programs (including their news content) is produced by a 3rd party production company. Watch the beginning of one of these shows and you’ll see a disclaimer in the upper left corner of your screen. Their nationally known reporters such as Scottie Hughes and Rick Sanchez are both notorious right wingers. IMO Chris Hedges is the only credible reporter there. Name one reputable news network that has all of their reporters and content done by an outside company. There is none.

    Why have they gone so right wing? Because they’ve become the very thing that they say they criticize: corporate media. Their management’s convinced that right wing content makes big money. That being said, how can you expect someone like that to actually give you fair coverage? What many of these reporters do is throw out a lie to catch someone in a gotcha soundbite. You then correct them with actual facts, and what do they do? They mumble and try to grovel their way out of it.

    All I’m saying is be fully aware of who you’re dealing with. That’s all.

  19. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for your comments, Tom. I wasn’t aware that a third party is producing RT USA’s news content, but I was surprised to be interviewed by a Trump-loving right-winger. That wasn’t the RT I remembered. But I haven’t had dealings with them for many years, and I only agreed to this show because someone I know from years ago is working for RT USA, and I thought it might be good to get some coverage on the anniversary.
    Then when I was in the studies, an interview with Chris Hedges was set up, who i have a lot for time for – and that should be broadcast soon!

  20. Anna says...

    Haspel in Stare Kiejkuty and lo & behold, the US delegation with Pompeo (and Haspel?) for the Iran-bashing ‘conference’ in Warsaw, landed not at Warsaw airport but … rendition flights Szymany airport, now a civilian tourist one and carefully rebranded Olsztyn-Mazury.
    So not only the umptiest shameful cooperation with US authorities, but apparently also a ‘memory lane’ tour for former CIA head Pompeo who wanted to see the airport ‘where it all happened’ or actually revisiting the scene of the crime in Haspel’s case?
    Too sickening for words. Just saw this on AJE, with the airport’s name clearly visible behind Pompeo. Luckily the conference is boycotted by many countries, hopefully nothing too dreadful will come out of it.

  21. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, that’s all very wrong, isn’t it, Anna? I suspect it did indeed involve seeing “where it all happened” for these ghoulish people. It’s sadly all part of the Trump-era reclaiming of the right to feel proud of the CIA’s torture program, rather than disowning it like Obama did.
    Let’s hope at least that this conference is a damp squib.

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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