Deep State, Edward Curtin, Essays, ethics, latest, USA, war crimes

Gina Haspel and Pinocchio from Rome

by Edward Curtin

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Alex Brandon/AP/Shutterstock (9666662bo)
CIA nominee Gina Haspel is sworn in during a confirmation hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill, in Washington
CIA Nominee Haspel, Washington, USA – 09 May 2018

Being in Rome, Italy and thinking of Gina Haspel, the CIA nominee and admitted torturer who says her “moral conscience” has changed after the fact, seems most fitting. Wherever you go in central Rome, you can hear the screams and smell the blood of those tortured and killed by the Roman Empire and those who ably followed in their stead. And you can see the crumbled stones and the pathetic architectural remains of those who thought they had triumphed. Their triumph turned to dust, and their belated mea culpas, if and when they ever came, always rang as hollow as Gina Haspel’s, Lt. William Calley’s, and Adolph Eichmann’s excuses that they were only doing their jobs and following orders.

Throughout Rome there are hawkers dangling Pinocchio trinkets in your face, constant reminders of the cost of lying. Or perhaps more aptly, the fame that ensues from lying followed by a childish semi-apology, even when it’s as obvious as the nose on your face that you are lying still. So in the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing Haspel was asked by Senator Mark Warner, D-VA., the kind of question that allows a respondent to answer in a deceptive way that means nothing, but seems profoundly sincere. Warner asked:

If this president asked you to do something that you find morally objectionable, even if there is an [Office of Legal Counsel] opinion, what will you do? Will you carry out that order or not?

To which Haspel replied:

Senator, my moral conscience is strong. I would not allow the CIA to carry out any activity that I thought was immoral – even if it was technically legal. I would absolutely not permit it.

From all reports, neither Warner’s nor Haspel’s nose grew longer, but perhaps such deceptive phrasing slyly falls beyond the parameters of Pinocchio’s sins and the Blue Fairy’s sanctions.

So the woman who oversaw detainee torture at a CIA “black site” in Thailand tells us she has a strong moral conscience, but she doesn’t tell us what that conscience considers intrinsically evil, if anything. Nor what that “strong” moral conscience considers moral or immoral in any way, just that the “CIA must undertake activities that are consistent with American values,” whatever they might be. And if she were ordered to carry out an action – let’s say kill a foreign agent or assassinate a political leader – that was technically illegal but accorded with her strong moral conscience, would she do so? Don’t ask; she wasn’t. Even Pinocchio would get confused with this legerdemain, and his “strong” moral conscience, Jiminy Cricket, would be utterly bamboozled.

The good Senator, adept at playing deceptive verbal games as befits his stature, is happy to have his non-question answered with a non-answer, and both he and Haspel are happy. Good question, good answer, good conscience. Nothing bad about that. Then Warner goes and votes for Haspel, who he says is “among the most experienced people to be nominated” to head the CIA, and Haspel says she thinks torture – excuse me, “enhanced interrogation” – doesn’t work anyway. Practicality wins the day.

But here in Rome so many regular people are not so practical. They seem to relish life, not as a task to accomplish, but as a pleasure to enjoy. Despite the history that surrounds them, and the dismal political economy that weighs heavy on their lives and country, they seem less anxious and terrorized than Americans. Of course this may be a visitor’s myopic vision, and when seen clearly, Romans might be as stressed as Americans. But I doubt it.

But for this visiting American, it is hard to dismiss thoughts about the disgraceful charade happening back in Washington D.C. Thinking here in Rome of the Haspel vote, I am reminded of the ex-CIA Director Allen Dulles’s and long-time Chief of Counterintelligence James Angleton’s organized “Ratlines,” the escape routes for Nazi and fascist killers and torturers, so many of whom were brought to the United States and other countries after World War II through Italy to help the newly formed CIA torture the truth out of detainees and assassinate opponents. Operation Paperclip, they called it.

No big deal; just a joining of two like-minded organizations by a tiny device.

Post September 11 torture is nothing new, and Haspel is nothing if not a traditionalist just doing her job. Is this what Haspel meant by “American values”? Many victims would attest to that.

In an old city like Rome one tends to think old thoughts: that the history of torture, human treachery, lying, and violence has a long history; that secular and religious fanatics are nothing new; and that empires rise and fall and everyone dies, even those who build monuments to their own “glorious” deeds.

But if one wanders around Rome and through life with no itinerary, one also encounters beautiful people and small pockets of faith, love, and devotion. One encounters magnificent art that embodies the heights to which humans can aspire. One realizes that despite the gory history of the human race, the killers and torturers, humans have and do rise above their worst inclinations and do the work of angels, despite the devils.
As we were sitting at a café in the Piazza della Rotonda, my wife said to me, “You have your back to the Pantheon.”

It was true. Those monumental gods bored me. My glass of vino rosso whirled my mind to better things. Lighter. Not stone idolatry. Not empires, except their death. Not stone gods, nor inquisitors or black sites or hooded torturers with Ph’ds from Harvard. No palaces to Renaissance princes or Central Intelligence agents, corrupt bastards of different times and places. No Wall Street/CIA nexus. No dastardly gross stupid rich Trump with his orange hair and phallic towers, nor his doppelganger Berlusconi here in Italy. No basilicas, nothing petrified, despite the city of stone that enclosed me. Like the sparrow that alighted on the next table and was pecking at the bread in a basket, my thoughts flew to lighter and more sustaining images of life and love and the spirit of care that sustains this beautiful world despite the torturers and killers.

Gina Haspel seemed so far away – yet so very near. My thoughts kept returning to all the U.S. Senators who have voted for this torturer to lead the CIA. Will they say they were only doing their jobs and following orders? Do they think of themselves as civilized?
I then looked up as the bird took flight and saw a cross silhouetted against the blue sky. Enough said.

Where will we conduct the next Nuremberg trials?


  1. Todd Millions asked “Why is there absolutely No report of Gina’s CIA career Before 911?”

    Well, I can say something about this.
    Last Sunday, an analytical newscast on Russian TV released a curious story about Gina Haspel.
    Here is the link:

    It was a big reportage. I will note only a few points.

    The report says that Haspel has worked in Russia since the late 80’s and until 2002.
    In total – about 15 years of work in Russia.
    She speaks perfect Russian without an accent.
    Haspel allegedly was a “journalist” named Jane.

    The TV channel, which issued a journalistic investigation about Gina Haspel, tracked down her photos of the period of work in Russia, here they are:

    Inconspicuous appearance, modestly dressed, in big glasses, sharp mind, speaks perfect Russian – excellent disguise for espionage.

    The report also says that working in Russia in the 90s, Haspel was unofficially in charge of the newspaper “The Moscow Tribune”.
    The newspaper was financially supported by the US Embassy in Moscow.
    In fact, the newspaper was the headquarters for collecting information about the most diverse aspects of Russia’s life in the 1990s.
    Journalists (if they really were journalists) of “The Moscow Tribune” received accreditation and access to all important events in the country, covered all the events. It is worth noting that at the same time (the 90s), many Russian newspapers went bankrupt and closed – the times were very difficult.

    The report notes that it was during the period when Haspel worked in Russia that “public organizations” were actively created and supported in Russia. These “public organizations” were supported by the US State Department.

    And after Gina Haspel left Russia in 2002, all traces of her activities were destroyed.

    The report has some more interesting info. I was thinking to translate it fully. Maybe will do it later.

  2. Todd Millions says

    Why is there absolutely No report of Gina’s CIA career Before 911?
    I recall a radio report (CBC- staticy reception)of a (J?)ina Haspel in Brussels with Maddy the Knife Albright
    gang nagging NATO about how the poor Coates must be saved from Serb Persecution.
    Was she using the State department for cover? This was before the wars of Monicias blowjob(all 6)
    A “Cultural Attache”?
    Were her and Albright the Kosher Catholic partners in other jolly Liberations?
    Why the Telling Lack of any report?

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says

      One fakestream media presstitute here in Austfailure spoke of Haspel’s ‘ ..storied career’. The scum actually worship torturing thugs, but that’s hardly a surprise, is it.

  3. Freedom Fighter says

    May 21, 2018
    We have to also remember that the Assad regime actively participated in the US “extraordinary rendition” process and was where many people were taken to be brutally tortured.

    This fact is conveniently forgotten by the low-information drones that make up much of the (so-called) “alternative media”.

    Remember what former CIA agent Robert Baer said:

    “If you want a serious interrogation, you send a prisoner to Jordan. If you want them to be tortured, you send them to Syria.”

    (Posted here on more recent article about Haspel)

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says

      Pot calling kettle black. Our favourite resident Ukronazi invertebrate calling others ‘drones’- that’s real chutzpah. Quoting the ‘Fraudian’ adds a comic twist.

    • Todd Millions says

      You forgot to mention that even when Darkest Yankydom did the rendition and snatch-Other isreali trained and compromised forces were brought in to “assist”. Mahar Arhar and the RCMP visitors come to mind.
      We still have no satifaction on the how and whom of our syphilitic political elite was complicit in that. Though the next isreali owned whore of a prime minister-stephan harper WAS. The crimminal RCMP commisioner was punish horridly-He was mad head of interpol. Vatician bank gangsters have being unable to hide the smirk since.

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says

      In the times when German Zionists and the Nazis co-operated to transfer Jews to Palestine, the TRUTH for which Ken Livingstone is being lynched by the Zionist thugs and stabbed in the back by Corbyn, young Jews trained at Eichmann’s farm for agricultural work in Palestine. Pretty irrelevant in the context of what was to come, but a fact that our Zionist overlords do not really want widely known.

  4. reinertorheit says

    Gina Haspel. Making America grate again.

  5. Alan says

    Mr Curtin’s reflections upon Roman, Italian history are at best….dark, few places have escaped a murderous past. The analogous reference to Ms Haspel, her ‘talent’ and supporters appear driven by location more than relevance.To bundle Ms Haspel with Mr Calley and Mr Eichmann gives her a notoriety that only serves to progress the authors subsequent observations. Ms Haspel is a willing participant in a ruthless system devoid of any morals or ethics, a system at best…..very dark.

    • ….nonsense!…. lieutenant calley, lt colonel eichmann, and agent haspel all used the so-called nuremburg defence, which wasn’t i was only following orders but actually in the political environment of the time, i could get away with it! had things worked out for the bosses, you would never heard of any of them!

  6. I am probably going to get in trouble for saying this, but I don’t see Gina Haspel as worse than anyone else to be head of the CIA. She says that she won’t use waterboarding again and at least those who were waterboarded did survive with no physical damage, despite the torture, which is better than being permanently maimed or killed for sure. The CIA itself is just an arm of the military-industrial complex, in my view, and she is no worse than anyone else to be its head, and could even be possibly better. At least she acknowledges that such things as waterboarding are wrong to do, and that is a step in the right direction.

    • reinertorheit says

      [[ she acknowledges that such things as waterboarding are wrong to do ]]

      Actually waterboarding was declared illegal by the George W Bush administration in 2006.

      So big deal that this sitnking hag ‘acknowledges it is wrong’,

      • Mulga Mumblebrain says

        Water-boarding has been popular in the USA for centuries. The Inquisition used it, too. In the Philippines, during the US genocide there, it was called the ‘water cure’ and was used on Filipinos, young and old, often by veterans of the Seventh Cavalry and the Indian Wars. Torture is CENTRAL to the ‘American Way’, and is a manifestation of the Right’s central psychopathology-the hatred of others.

      • Savorywill says

        What difference does it make if f an executioner is Jesus or Hitler? Doesn’t change the nature of the job!

        • pardon? you’re saying that la haspel shouldn’t be conflated with eichmann, but so what if she was? you’re not getting paid enough!

      • wardropper says

        Wonderful. That’s why people go into politics today.
        Unadulterated praise 24/7, and protection from the people who might NOT praise one…

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says

      How do you know that they survived, or survived other torture methods? It is pretty low, but common on the Right, to support the torture of untermenschen.

    • if there are no agents who didn’t torture in the cia! putting an acknowledged torturer in charge of your intelligence service, whilst denying the utility of torture, puts the lie to your denials! even more despicable about the torture programme was that it was to justify the unjustifiable (the invasion of iraq)!

  7. Appointing a torturer to head a country’s spy system confirms this comment piece by the Saker; these people are evil from the lowest circles of hell — the Hell of perverted intelligence which delights in destruction, the Spirit which forever Denies:

    Washington Examiner says “Ukraine should blow up Putin’s Crimea bridge” — (a lesson in lunacy and hatred).

    • reinertorheit says

      I have never come across the ‘Washington Examiner’. In America, any whackjob with money to spare can launch a publication – viz The Weakly Standard – William Kristol’s pile of neocon bullshit, that loses $1m per year, with unaudited readership figures. Oddly enough, the current owner is the very same Phillip Anschutz who owns the Washington Examiner too. Whose money finances this jackbooted drool is not revealed. This streak of trash ceased publication as a newspaper in 2013, and now continues as a website – some would say a blog. The opportunities to rig readership figures for a website are even more elastic than a print newspaper.

      It’s remarkable that in such a litigious nation as the USA, a pile of crap like The Washington Examiner can exort terrorist activity without any legal comeback?

      • Mulga Mumblebrain says

        And Paul Street in the J..sorry, ‘New Statesman’, has called for outright war on Russia designed to bring about regime change. Economic, cyber, propaganda etc-you name it, Street, who I believe is close to the ‘People’s Poet’, Jeremy ‘Rick’ Corbyn, seems just a little deranged and, frankly, omnicidal, but it’s all the rage, dontcha know?

        • Mulga Mumblebrain says

          Apologies to Paul Street-it was Paul Mason, not Street.

          • reinertorheit says

            Aha, no surprise – Paul Mason has been queueing up to take over Simon Heffer’s job at the Torygraph when the latter snuffs it.

        • reinertorheit says

          Well, that’s another subscription I shan’t have to bother with again in future!

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says

      Russia should ‘rendition’ Tom Rogan, the terrorist propagandist who wrote that garbage, to face charges in Russia for promoting terrorism.

      • reinertorheit says

        And the rest of the Washington Examiner’s staff, and its publisher Mr Anschutz too. Somewhat more pertinently, Russia should investigate the shady individuals or corporations who bankroll Anschutz and his loss-making publications? You can’t keep posting million-dollar losses each year, purely for the fun of publishing hatemongering tosh… unless someone is underwriting those losses for ulterior reasons.

  8. Fair dinkum says

    Could be a case of women having to ‘prove themselves’
    to advance in a ‘Man’s world, and to achieve that, must become even more ruthless?

  9. When we were still tribal societies we had a variety of ways to deal with the psychopaths in our midst, either marginalizing them because their behavior threatened group safety, or expelling or even if necessary physically eliminating them. However, in our modern capitalist Western “democracies” we instead promote and offer power positions to these very same dangerous amoral human beings which our tribal ancestors knew enough not to follow or allow to wield power. What is fascinating about such confirmation hearings is that it is typically a room full of malignant narcissists, sociopaths and psychopaths both asking and answering the questions. We “the tribe” are simply left out of the discussion, with rather predictable consequences.

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says

      Capitalism was created by, and for, psychopaths, hence they rule under capitalism.

  10. bevin says

    The real problem here is not Ms Haspel, who is what she is. And the world knows it.
    But the Congressmen (and women) who voted for her, and what she does, and will be running for re-election and boasting, when they do, that they are ‘strong and determined’ defenders of the US way of life.
    Can anyone doubt that they are?

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says

      Torture IS ‘the American way’. Over four hundred years and counting down.

  11. reinertorheit says

    One of Haspel’s very own CIA shitwipes, Robert Seldon Lady, was involved in the illegal kidnapping and extraordinary rendition of the Egyptian imam Hassan Nasr in Italy – afternoon noonday prayers in Milan.

    No matter where we travel, some shitty little CIA operative like Lady could always be there to take the law into his own yankee-doodle hands, and behave like he’s a Lord Of The Universe.

    Although Lady was finally arrested in Panama, he was immediately released the next day (presumably after some furious emailing from CIA HQ, and put on a flight to the United States.

    Let’s hope someone finds Lady and smashes his skull in with a baseball bat.

  12. sallysdad says

    A little levity here… I just noticed the avatar assigned to me….. a perfect likeness of me….. 🙂

  13. sallysdad says

    My God… what a beautiful essay. The ending gave me shivers.
    Thank you, Sir.

  14. Interested Observer says

    Thought Operation Paperclip was just the name given to the program to actively recruit selected Germans/ex-Nazis after WWII; not one that saw active torture activities?

    • bevin says

      It recruited men with blood on their hands, including (human) vivisectionists, torturers and men who had organised, punished, starved and killed thousands of POWs into slave labourers and spirited them away, removing them from the war crimes tribunals intended to ensure that such acts could never again be committed with impunity.
      This Paperclip kept the tradition alive and ensured that authority would in future e able to re-assure its torturers that they would be protected, and had no need to fear the consequences.

      • Mulga Mumblebrain says

        The Japanese version was interesting, with Shiro Ishii, the real vivisectionist of scores, including children, and germ warfare expert from Unit 731 in Harbin in China, given safe passage by the Thanatopians back to Japan, in return for his ‘research’ findings into bio-warfare. A few years later his expertise, particularly in using arthropod vectors to spread disease, was used in the USA’s expensive germ warfare operation in Korea. Shiro died of old age. No doubt Abe thinks him a hero.

  15. JJA says

    From a feminist ‘glass ceiling’ perspective, as someone noted on the naked capitalism blog the other day, to rise that far, Haspel must have tortured twice as many victims as a man would have had to do.

    • some glass ceilings are not worth breaking
      head of cia? thats not a ceiling. quite the opposite.

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says

      The US system manages to throw up ‘females’ even more loathsome than the males. The dessicated cadaver Albright, hissing that ‘Yes’, murdering 500,000 Iraqi children under five was ‘Worth it’, the various she-devil female hyaenas who have represented Thanatopia in the UN, the blood-soaked fascist patron Clinton, and the welter of crazed hard Right bleached blonde bimbos foisted on the world by FoxNews, courtesy of Roger Ailes’s ‘vetting procedures’, etc. I even forgot Rachel Madcow, and that welcome recruit to public life in New York, Masha Gessen.

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