Virtually the entire media complex megaphoned a 2017 report by Soros-backed news outlet ProPublica, and to a lesser extent a similar report in the New York Times, claiming that Trump's new pick to lead the CIA, Gina Haspel, oversaw a "clandestine base" in Thailand where she participated in, and mocked the torture of suspected al-Qaida leader Abu Zubaydah.
The claims were retracted by ProPublica in an embarrassing correction.
On Feb. 22, 2017, ProPublica published a story that inaccurately described Gina Haspel’s role in the treatment of Abu Zubaydah, a suspected al-Qaida leader who was imprisoned by the CIA at a secret “black site” in Thailand in 2002.
The story said that Haspel, a career CIA officer who President Trump has nominated to be the next director of central intelligence, oversaw the clandestine base where Zubaydah was subjected to waterboarding and other coercive interrogation methods that are widely seen as torture. The story also said she mocked the prisoner’s suffering in a private conversation. Neither of these assertions is correct and we retract them. It is now clear that Haspel did not take charge of the base until after the interrogation of Zubaydah ended.
Of note, the ProPublica article was published right after the Trump administration promoted Haspel to the CIA's #2 job in early February, 2017 in what appears to be nothing more than a political hit piece.
ProPublica's conclusion was drawn from "declassified agency cables" and CIA-reviewed books which referred to Haspel "chief of base." The name of the official was redacted, as well as an online post from former CIA counterterrorism officer, John Kiriakous, who wrote "It was Haspel who oversaw the staff" at the Thai prison.
That's it. Redacted cables and a book which did not state the name of the base chief, and an online post by a CIA counterterrorism officer saying it was Haspel is all it took to smear a woman placed in a top position within the CIA - weeks after the Trump administration gave the 30-year veteran the promotion.
The first clue that something was off in the report was the CIA's statement to ProPublica for the original 2017 report in which an agency spokesperson said “Nearly every piece of the reporting that you are seeking comment on is incorrect in whole or in part.”
While Haspel - according to former colleagues, did run the Thai base - the New York Times published a recent piece placing her arrival in late 2002, after the waterboarding of Zubaydah.
And while the MSM glazed over the fact that Trump appointed the CIA's first female director this week, the media ran with the torture narrative - hard. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) even demanded that the CIA declassify documents detailing Haspel's ties to the torture program.
Abu Zubaydah's lawyer, Joseph Margulies, penned an angry op-ed in TIME. "In short, all we know for sure is that Haspel was in charge of a site where torture took place," Marguiles wrote. "And make no mistake: it was torture."
The narrative is already out there. I doubt that MSNBC and CNN are going to go back and dedicate hours of time to undo the damage that you did. Almost like this was planned and intentional. https://t.co/JRiQUKlsy0— Arthur Schwartz (@ArthurSchwartz) March 15, 2018
ProPublica's retraction continues:
James Mitchell, the psychologist and CIA contractor who helped to direct the waterboarding of both suspects, said in a broadcast interview on March 14 that Haspel was not the “chief of base” whom he described in his book as making fun of Zubaydah’s suffering.
“That chief of base was not Gina,” Mitchell told Fox Business News. “She’s not the COB I was talking about.”
Mitchell’s book, “Enhanced Interrogation: Inside the Minds and Motives of the Islamic Terrorists Trying to Destroy America,” referred to the chief of base in Thailand as both “he” and “she.”
We erroneously assumed that this was an effort by Mitchell or the agency to conceal the gender of the single official involved; it is now clear that Mitchell was referring to two different people.
So in an effort to smear a Trump appointee that the MSM would be fawning over if Obama had appointed the first woman to lead the CIA, the entire mainstream media complex and Dianne Feinstein relied on a report from a Soros-backed news outlet and the New York Times, which both published hit pieces right after the Trump administration promoted her the first time, and were both wrong.
That said, the correction doesn't completely excuse Haspel from her involvement in the program, as she still reportedly ran the base at which "enhanced interrogations" occurred, and advised her boss to shred 92 tapes of Zubaydah's waterboarding, which he did. It also doesn't take away from arguments against enhanced interrogations in general.
The CIA's office of public affairs, meanwhile, praised Haspel's service.
Dean Boyd, director of the CIA’s office of public affairs, praised Haspel’s 30 years of public service and said Thursday in a statement that her qualifications and capabilities would be evident in the hearing process.
“It is important to note that she has spent nearly her entire CIA career undercover,” Boyd said. “Much of what is in the public domain about her is inaccurate. We are pleased that ProPublica is willing to acknowledge its mistakes and correct the record regarding its claims about Ms. Haspel.”
This is some mistake ...— Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) March 15, 2018
... I and many others relayed this reporting, which has now been retracted. https://t.co/f6SA8vh9j5
ProPublica corrects the(ir) record: Gina Haspel never oversaw the waterboarding of Zubaydah and never taunted/mocked him. She only took command of the base after Zubaydah’s torture had ended.— Joé McKen (@joemcken) March 16, 2018
She’s still not a great person, but this is a hell of a retraction. https://t.co/3msQN6Rm6v
I tweeted this story, only seems fair to tweet the retraction. Note that PP is not retracting the part of the story in which Haspel ordered the destruction of torture tapes. https://t.co/JimgEfdNKn— Sarah Merrill (@Sarah_Merrill) March 15, 2018