A 2009 Senate Armed Services Committee review concluded that torture “damaged our ability to collect accurate intelligence that could save lives, strengthened the hand of our enemies, and compromised our moral authority.” That’s why the Senate voted in 2015 to turn the presidential ban on torture into official law.
To his credit, Trump did water down his original support for torture, allowing Defense Secretary James Mattis — who opposes torture — to override him.
But if the Trump administration is now opposed to torture, why are they nominating the architects of America’s torture fiasco to key posts?
Take Steven Bradbury, nominated to be general counsel for the Transportation Department. Bradbury is infamous for writing the legal memos authorizing CIA torture at the Bush Justice Department.
Bradbury’s confirmation was placed on hold by Senator Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq veteran who lost her legs in the war. “The actions you helped justify put our troops in harm’s way, put our diplomats deployed overseas in harm’s way, and you compromised our nation’s very values,” she said angrily at his confirmation hearing.
Or what about Donald Trump’s nominee to head the FBI, Christopher Wray?
Wray was at the Justice Department when attorney John Yoo and others were drafting their torture memos. Wray knew about detainee abuse and did not, as head of the criminal division, bring charges against any of the Bush administration torturers — except for one low-level CIA contractor who beat a prisoner to death.
A third person connected to torture is Gina Haspel, who was appointed deputy director of the CIA. Haspel ran a “black site” prison in Thailand where suspects were waterboarded — and then helped destroy video of the interrogations.
The Senate Intelligence Committee meticulously documented the sordid U.S. record of torture under the Bush administration in a 6,770-page report. But the public hasn’t been able to read it — only the executive summary has been released.