We’re Suing the CIA to Find the Body of a Torture Victim

In November 2002, the CIA tortured Gul Rahman to death in a secret prison in Afghanistan. Sixteen years later, Rahman’s family is still desperately trying to find out what the CIA did to his body. 

To date, the CIA has told his loved ones nothing, and his daughter cannot even give her father a decent burial. 

That same month, Gina Haspel oversaw the torture of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri at a CIA black site in Thailand. Sixteen years later, Haspel has been promoted to CIA director by President Trump, while Nashiri remains “one of the most damaged victims of torture” a psychiatric expert has ever seen. 

To date, the CIA has told the American public nothing about Haspel’s role in the agency’s torture program — even as it waged an unprecedented propaganda campaign on her behalf to win her Senate confirmation. Even a CIA spokesman confirmed that under the Trump administration, the agency pushed harder than usual to get the American public to accept the CIA’s favored choice for director. And now that Haspel has been installed at the top, she is effectively in control of whether her own record of torture remains secret. 

The common thread linking the continued suffering of Rahman’s family and the CIA’s efforts to whitewash Haspel’s history is the agency’s use of extreme secrecy to avoid accountability for its shameful and illegal torture program. To force the CIA to come clean, today we filed two lawsuits under the Freedom of Information Act. 

Ever since the torture program began, the CIA has desperately tried to cover up its crimes, no matter the cost to victims and their families — and to our democratic institutions. 

Central to the CIA’s discussions about its very first prisoner was a plan to ensure that their crimes would never come to light. In a July 2002 cable, CIA personnel revealed that if the prisoner died under torture, they would cremate the body of the prisoner. That would eliminate the evidence:

Screenshot from document

But the torturers were worried that, if the prisoner survived, he might one day reveal what the CIA had done to him. So they demanded “reasonable assurances” that the prisoner “will remain in isolation and incommunicado for the remainder of his life.” CIA headquarters readily agreed that the prisoner “will never be placed in a situation where he has any significant contact with others.”

In short, to hide its crimes, the CIA decided that the people it tortured would be “disappeared” — a tactic made infamous by murderous dictatorships around the world. But the agency could not make all its victims vanish, and over the years, the other parts of the government — including the courts and Congress — started to examine the CIA’s crimes. At that point, the CIA doubled down on secrecy, endangering our democratic system of checks and balances.

When some survivors sued their torturers in federal court, the CIA tried to get the cases dismissed by arguing that courts couldn’t even handle considering the claims of torture victims without revealing “state secrets.” Unfortunately, judges largely gave in to these tactics. As a result, our courts were diminished in their vital role as a check on executive power and a means of accountability.

And when it came time for the Senate to consider Trump’s nomination of Gina Haspel to be CIA director, the agency again used secrecy to subvert the process. The CIA ensured that the public confirmation hearings almost entirely hid her role in torture.

Instead of allowing the public to consider Haspel’s actual record, the CIA instead pushed what several senators described as a “superficial narrative” that did “a great disservice to the American people.” Without “meaningful declassification” of Haspel’s actions, the senators wrote, the Senate could not “properly fulfill its constitutional obligation to ‘advise and consent.”

The first lawsuit we filed on Thursday aims to provide Gul Rahman’s family with answers to the questions that have haunted them for 16 years: What became of their loved one? What did the CIA do to his body in an effort to make him disappear?

The second lawsuit demands information on the CIA’s unprecedented propaganda campaign on behalf of Haspel — who was acting CIA director during the confirmation process earlier this year — including her potential conflict of interest in controlling the classification of information related to her personal role in prisoner torture and abuse.

The CIA and Gina Haspel would prefer we forget about what happened in November 2002. But Gul Rahman’s family can’t forget. Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri can’t forget. And the American public can’t afford to forget either.

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Dr. Joseph Goebbels

"It's not nice to torture people.": Emily Post circa 1922.

Anonymous

Isn't that essentially what Saudi Arabia did? Maybe we should focus on our own American torturers before preaching to sovereign nations? How can we judge anyone if we do it too?

Anonymous

That’s literally what the entire article was about.

Anonymous

When the former Soviet Union and Nazi Germany collapsed, it was largely due to it's citizens losing faith in their government. That's essentially a USA tactic in places like Iran and North Korea - show it's citizens what their government really does. Many Americans, especially since 9/11, no longer recognize American institutions and the constitutional rule of law. We use this tactic to defeat foreign enemies, we shouldn't be turning our own citizens against us. Americans have witnessed torture, kidnapping, assassinations, warrantless spying, censorship and locking people up without charge, trial, judge, jury or guilty verdict. Maybe we have bigger problems at home before judging others?

Dr. Joseph Goebbels

I still have unwavering faith in our government, despite the president being a dill weed.

Carol Anne Grayson

Good to hear. I pray the family of Gul Rahman get the information they deserve. Abuse allegedly continues in Afghan prisons such as Pul-e-Charkhi where inmates recently skewered their lips together in protest. Also I have always argued if US had investigated torture and medical experimentation in its own mainstream prison system at home and there had been accountability, there would have been less chance of torture being exported by CIA to countries like Afghanistan. I hope to have the opportunity to put forward evidence on this at the Infected Blood Inquiry UK given that so many haemophiliacs died after being given blood sourced from prisons like Arkansas State Penitentiary where we now know torture and medical experimentation on prisoners was rife. A very dark period in US prison history and so many human rights groups stayed silent!

Salero21

ACLU = American Communists & Leftists Union

Anonymous

Eisenhower, Truman and Douglas MacArthur all supported the ACLU by the end of their careers. All awarded the ACLU letters of accommodation.

Catherine Delgado

Hey, SOMEONE has to support the Constitution....

Anonymous

No.

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