Muslim leaders in the United States – including the head of a chapter of an organization named a co-conspirator in a terror-funding plot – are condemning President Trump for his nomination of Gina Haspel as CIA director, contending she’s unqualified because of her participation in “enhanced interrogation techniques” against al-Qaida suspects after the 9/11 attacks.
Haspel was the overseer of a so-called CIA “black site” in 2002 in Thailand, where investigators successfully obtained intelligence from terrorist suspects to prevent further attacks.
The executive director of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations described Haspel as a “torturer,” reported the website Middle East Eye.
Dawud Walid said Haspel’s appointment only benefits recruiters of militant groups to “stir up more anti-Americanism.”
CAIR was named by the Justice Department as an unindicted co-conspirator in a plot to fund the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas and was designated a terrorist organization by the United Arab Emirates, along with groups such as ISIS and al-Qaida.
While CAIR regards itself as a civil-rights organization, according to evidence entered in the terror-financing case, it was founded by figures associated with Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, the worldwide movement that has stated its intent to transform the U.S. into an Islamic state. More than a dozen CAIR leaders have been charged or convicted of terrorism-related crimes.
Trump chose Haspel to succeed Mike Pompeo, who was nominated to be secretary of state after the president fired Rex Tillerson last week.
Hassan Jaber, the executive director of ACCESS, a Dearborn-based Arab American organisation, also criticized Trump’s CIA nominee, who must be confirmed by the Senate.
“Torture is torture. This issue has been settled, and anyone who’s been involved should not be in a leadership position or leading anything in this country, especially the CIA,” he said.
Amnesty International has said the harsh interrogations of Saudi al-Qaida suspects Abu Zubaydah and Abd al Nashiri were “crimes under international law.” The primary enhanced technique was waterboarding, a mock execution that simulates drowning. Zubaydah was transferred to Guantanamo Bay in 2006, where he remains.
However, Haspel’s critics have been relying on a story by ProPublica that has now been retracted.
In a 2017 story, ProPublica claimed Haspel oversaw the clandestine base at the time Zubaydah was subjected to waterboarding and that she gleefully mocked the prisoner’s suffering.
“Neither of these assertions is correct and we retract them,” ProPublica said. “It is now clear that Haspel did not take charge of the base until after the interrogation of Zubaydah ended.”
Paul, McCain opposed
Middle East Eye noted Republican Sens. John McCain, who was tortured as a war prisoner in Vietnam, and Rand Paul, who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, have spoken against Haspel’s nomination.
McCain tweeted: “The torture of detainees in U.S. custody during the last decade was one of the darkest chapters in American history. The Senate must do its job in scrutinizing the record & involvement of Gina Haspel in this disgraceful program.”
Paul, who had cited the false ProPublica report to reporters, acknowledged the error but remains opposed to Haspel’s nomination, according to an aide, because “she was instrumental in running a place where people were tortured.”
James Mitchell, regarded as the architect of “enhanced interrogation techniques,” insisted the methods are not torture, and he confirmed that Haspel has been mistakenly identified as the overseer of the Zubaydah interrogation.
“That program was put in place by the highest levels of government. It operated under the direction of the president. It was approved by the National Security Council. It was approved by the Department of Justice, the highest law enforcement in the land,” he said in an interview with the Fox Business Network.
“The attorney general said it was legal. Hundreds of people were involved in that,” said Mitchell, a psychologist and former member of the U.S. Air Force.
Mitchell said the techniques were effective, helping catch numerous terrorists, including Osama bin Laden. And a plot was foiled during the Bush administration that aimed to crash airplanes into the tallest buildings in Los Angeles, Seattle and Chicago.
He said Haspel is a “great choice” for CIA director.
“I think this thing has been completely spun by those people who want to attack her,” Mitchell said.
“The people who are caterwauling and squealing about wanting to have women in power should welcome her, because she is a non-partisan woman who can break the glass ceiling, who will keep Americans safe.”
Muslim Brotherhood ‘dog whistle’
CAIR’s Walid also condemned Pompeo, calling him a “conspiracy theorist and a known anti-Muslim bigot” for his association with the grassroots organization ACT for America, which says it has about 750,000 members nationwide.
“Anytime we have a person who is supposed to head the diplomatic relations of our nation who is overtly anti-Muslim, that cannot bode well for our country’s foreign policy,” he said.
Middle East Eye cited the controversial Southern Poverty Law Center’s designation of ACT for America as an “anti-Muslim hate group because it pushes wild anti-Muslim conspiracy theories, denigrates American Muslims and deliberately conflates mainstream and radical Islam.”
In 2016, Pompeo received the group’s highest honor, its National Security Eagle Award.
“Anytime we have a person who is supposed to head the diplomatic relations of our nation who is overtly anti-Muslim, that cannot bode well for our country’s foreign policy,” the CAIR director told MEE.
In 2016, Pompeo co-sponsored a bill urging the State Department to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation.
Walid charged that Pompeo’s concern about the Muslim Brotherhood is not so much about the organization founded in Egypt as it is “a dog whistle to talk about the Muslim community and to deprive American Muslims of their civil liberties.”
As WND has reported, the Muslim Brotherhood’s motto is: “Allah is our objective. The Prophet is our leader. The Qur’an is our law. Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope. [Allah is greater!].”
Walid said the kind of people Trump has chosen for his administration reflects his “xenophobia” and lack of regard for the American Constitution.
CAIR has sued the authors of a WND Books expose, “Muslim Mafia: Inside the Secret Underworld That’s Conspiring to Islamize America,” which documented the group’s radical ties.