Washington, DC – Today, torture survivors and their advocates released an Open Letter urging President-Elect Biden not to nominate torture defender Mike Morell for CIA Director and asking the Senate not to approve Biden’s nominee Avril Haines, a torture enabler, as Director of National Intelligence. The letter was also delivered this morning to members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, as well as President-Elect Biden and Vice-President Elect Kamala Harris.
Signatories include: Mansoor Adayfi, a writer from Yemen imprisoned for 14 years without charge at Guantanamo Bay, where he was force fed for two years; Moazzam Begg, a British-Pakistani ex-Guantanamo detainee and Outreach Director for CAGE, a service organization for torture survivors and communities impacted by the War on Terror; Sister Dianna Ortiz, a US missionary tortured by members of the CIA-funded Guatemalan army; Colonel Larry Wilkerson, Whistleblower and Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell; John Kiriakou, former CIA officer imprisoned after exposing CIA waterboarding; and musician Roger Waters (formerly with Pink Floyd), whose song “Each Small Candle” is a tribute to torture victims.
The organizers of the letter, Marcy Winograd of Progressive Democrats of America, Medea Benjamin of CODEPINK, and Jeremy Varon of Witness Against Torture, have been lobbying against the inclusion of torture apologists in the Biden administration since the August Democratic National Convention, Their efforts include a letter to Biden from 450 DNC delegates, a CODEPINK petition signed by over 4,000, and calls to the offices of the Senators on the Intelligence Committee. “When we started this campaign,” says 2020 DNC Delegate Marcy Winograd, “Morell was considered the frontrunner, but opposition to his disgraceful defense of torture has cast a pall on his nomination. We want to make sure his nomination is off the table, and that Biden and the Senate also understand we reject Avril Haines for her complicity in suppressing evidence of CIA torture,”.
Morell, a CIA analyst under Bush and Deputy and Acting CIA Director under Obama, has defended the agency’s “enhanced interrogation” program, objecting to use of the word “torture” to characterize waterboarding, sleep deprivation, starvation diets, sexual humiliation, hypothermia and painful bodily contortions. Morrell also falsely claimed that torture “worked” in foiling terrorists plots. In addition, Morell defended the CIA’s destruction of nearly 90 videotapes documenting brutal interrogations at CIA black site prisons.
As CIA Deputy Director from 2013-2014, Avril Haines overruled the CIA Inspector General in choosing not to punish agency personnel accused of hacking into the Senate Intelligence Committee’s computers during their investigation into the CIA’s use of torture. She was also part of the team that suppressed evidence of CIA torture by redacting the Senate Intelligence Committee’s landmark torture report, reducing a 6,000 page document to 500 pages.
Both Morell and Haines supported Trump’s nomination of Gina Haspel to CIA Director — a nomination that then-Senator Kamala Harris, other prominent Democrats, and Senator John McCain opposed. Haspel supervised a black site prison in Thailand and authorized a memo authorizing the destruction of CIA videotapes documenting torture.
Jeremy Varon, Witness Against Torture:
“Joe Biden and Kamala Harris promised to restore transparency, integrity, and respect for the rule of law to government. So how can their National Security team be led by people who endorsed, or tried to cover up, the clear crime of torture? It makes no sense.”
Djamel Ameziane, Former Guantanamo Prisoner (2002-2013):
“Elevating torture apologists to a leadership position within the Biden administration will damage the USA’s standing and give the world’s dictators succor and comfort.”
Jeffrey Kaye, Author, “Cover-Up at Guantanamo:
“Morell and Haines have put loyalty to CIA torturers above adherence to US treaties and domestic law, as well as basic morality. To allow them to serve in government would send a message to all that accountability for torture is passé, and that war crimes will always be dismissed with a wink from those in high office.”
John Kiriakou, Former CIA officer who blew the whistle on agency torture:
“Morell has disingenuously said that he was unaware of the CIA’s torture program at the same time that he was the Agency’s fourth-ranking officer. As deputy CIA Director and Acting CIA Director, he oversaw illegal activities around the world. I can’t believe that any sane person could or would consider Mike Morell as a serious candidate for CIA Director.”
Medea Benjamin, CODEPINK:
“We can’t allow the new Biden administration to include people who have been involved–in any way–in heinous acts of torture. That’s why we are part of a groundswell of opposition to both Mike Morell and Avril Haines for key intelligence positions. No torture apologists should be allowed to serve in this administration. Period.”
Torture Survivor Mansoor Adayfi on Morell’s assertion that torture is effective: “In Guantanamo, when they put you under very bad circumstances—like 72 hours under very cold air conditioning, and you are tied to the ground and someone comes and pours cold water on you—you are going to tell them whatever they want you to say. I will sign anything, I will admit anything!,” says Dayfi.
Torture Survivor Moazzem Begg on his treatment at Bagram Air Base before arriving at Guantanamo: “They tied me up with my hands behind my back to my legs, kicked me in the head, kicked me in the back, threatened to take me to Egypt to be tortured, to be raped, to be electrocuted. They had a woman screaming in the next room whom I believed at that time was my wife. They bought pictures of my children and told me I would never see them again.”
Colonel Larry Wilkerson, torture whistleblower: “Kidnapping, torture and assassination have no place in a democracy and turn the CIA into a secret police …Abuses of the kind documented in the Senate’s report could happen again.”
James Dorsey, attorney for released Guantanamo detainee Ahcene Zemiri. “As a Marine Corps veteran, I have always understood that when our servicemen have been captured and tortured in the past, a real source of strength for them has been knowing that their country would never engage in such conduct. “