Freedom of Information Act Request Seeks Documents About Selective Declassification and Activities Related to Promoting Haspel

May 4, 2018

WASHINGTON — The American Civil Liberties Union filed a Freedom of Information Act request today seeking documents relating to the agency’s unprecedented efforts to use CIA personnel and resources to try to get the Senate to confirm Acting CIA Director Gina Haspel as director.

The ACLU and several senators have called for the declassification of documents relating to Haspel’s role in the CIA torture program and the destruction of videotaped evidence of torture. The agency has only made public one internal memo, which exonerated Haspel from internal discipline for her role in the destruction of the tapes.

In contrast, through its press office and Twitter feed, the CIA has released ample information aimed at portraying Haspel in a positive light, ranging from her enthusiasm for college sports to an encounter with Mother Teresa. The agency has also publicized praise for Haspel from current and former government officials.  

The CIA itself has admitted that it “is being more robust than normal in supporting this nomination.”

Today’s FOIA request covers records about decisions related to the CIA’s strategy of promoting Haspel’s nomination, as well as what agency resources could be dedicated to that effort.

It further requests all documents on communications about the nomination from CIA personnel to the White House, and with current and former CIA employees, public relations firms, and other nongovernmental organizations supporting Haspel, as well as communications aimed at shaping press coverage.

The filing also seeks records about the selective declassification of information about Haspel, including whether she, as acting director, controls declassification and agency communications about her own actions.

“For years, the CIA waged a propaganda campaign to mislead the American public and its elected representatives about the CIA’s brutal and unlawful torture program,” said ACLU attorney Dror Ladin. “The American people have a right to know about the new propaganda campaign that the CIA is now waging on behalf of Gina Haspel even as it hides her responsibility for torture and role in destruction of torture evidence.”

Haspel was reportedly involved with the CIA torture program from its earliest stages. According to public reports, she had a supervisory role during CIA torture of Abu Zubayadah, and she was chief of base at a CIA prison in Thailand during the torture of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who was waterboarded multiple times. The abuses at the Thai black site became a model for the torture program going forward. According to Jose Rodriguez, who was Haspel’s boss at the time, she personally prepared a cable authorizing the destruction of more than 90 videotapes documenting detainee abuse through waterboarding and other methods.

Today’s FOIA request is here:
https://www.aclu.org/other/foia-request-cia-public-campaign-supporting-gina-haspel-nomination

More on the CIA campaign and Haspel’s role in the CIA torture program is here:
https://www.aclu.org/blog/national-security/torture/cia-gives-highly-sanitized-view-gina-haspel-while-keeping-her-torture

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