torture Archives -

Biden Advisor an “Apologist for Torture,” an Architect of “Kill Lists”


JEFFREY KAYE, jeffkaye at, @jeff_kaye
Author of Cover-up at GuantanamoKaye said today: “According to former Obama senior adviser, Valerie Jarrett, putative Democratic Party candidate for president Joe Biden picked a ‘superstar‘ when he appointed ex-CIA Deputy Director and White House attorney Avril Haines to head his national security and foreign policy team.

“No matter how much Obama/Biden administration officials praise her, Avril Haines’ role always seems to be making the unpalatable palatable, whether it’s prettifying companies like [data mining] contractor Palantir, agencies like the CIA, policies like ‘targeted killing,’ or war criminals like current CIA chief, ‘Bloody’ Gina Haspel.

“During Haspel’s contentious Senate confirmation, the Trump administration turned to Haines to legitimate Haspel, whose crimes included helping destroy CIA torture tapes, as well as participating in an unspecified management role at more than one CIA black site. Haines called Haspel ‘intelligent, compassionate, and fair.’ But that wasn’t all that Avril Haines has done for the CIA. She also participated in an ‘accountability board’ inquiry into CIA interference in the Senate investigation of CIA torture. She, of course, found no wrong-doing by the CIA.

“Haines claims to find torture immoral, yet she supports known torture official Haspel. Additionally, she was a White House lawyer when the UN Committee on Torture condemned the Obama-supported Army Field Manual on interrogations for using methods of interrogation, including sleep deprivation and sensory deprivation, that can cause psychotic reactions in prisoners, raising serious concerns of U.S. current use of torture. Did Haines agree with the Obama administration’s decision to defend the condemned techniques?

“We don’t know, as many questions haven’t been asked in the rush to anoint her a ‘superstar’ appointment. One anonymous progressive leader told The Daily Beast, ‘Being where any decent person should be on a few issues doesn’t cancel out an endorsement of torturers.’ It is sad that in 2020 ‘the leader of a progressive nonprofit that works on national security issues’ would fear ‘professional reprisal’ for daring to criticize Biden’s choice!

“The problems with Haines don’t stop with her shady connections to torture. It’s known that Avril Haines was Obama’s CIA deputy director. But most of the public doesn’t know she was also Obama’s direct advisor in constructing his targeted assassination ‘Kill List’ policy.

“Haines supposedly made Obama’s drone assassination program more transparent and less liable to kill innocents. But a 2016 ACLU examination of the policy Haines helped construct concluded it fell ‘far short of the standards for transparency and accountability needed to ensure that the government’s targeted killing program is lawful under domestic and international law.’ In particular, the Haines-influenced policy relied on ‘looser, law-of-war standards that govern conduct in war, rather than the more protective rules that apply under international human rights law.’

“Avril Haines is presented as a humane, intelligent and compassionate alternative to the typical white male elite that run the CIA and other such agencies. But her record is clear. She is an apologist for torture operations. She helped create kill lists for the CIA and U.S. Special Forces. She is not an alternative to the barbarism of the Trump administration, but a dire predictor of Biden’s obeisance as president to an out-of-control national security establishment.”

George Floyd’s Killing, Martin Gugino’s Abuse and Witness Against Torture


JEREMY VARON, jvaron at, @WitnessTorture
Varon is professor of history at the New School and an activist with the group Witness Against Torture. He just wrote the piece “Martin Gugino – The ‘Buffalo Protestor’ and our Friend,” which states: “None of us is surprised that it was Martin meeting the police line in a posture of non-violence. Martin is gentle, principled, and undaunted. Allied with the Catholic Worker tradition, he is also deeply committed to a tapestry of causes, from fair housing to immigrant rights. Guiding his activism is belief in the sacred power of non-violent resistance to injustice. If that makes him an ‘agitator,’ as Buffalo’s police chief slandered him, then the world needs more agitators.” [See news release from Monday: “Today, Sentencing for Pacifist Jailed for Protesting ‘Omnicidal’ Weapons — Supported by Activist Thrown to Ground by Police.”]

Varon continued: “In his eulogy for George Floyd, attorney Benjamin Crump named what was done to him as ‘torture.’ It was a striking description I had not heard before. Floyd’s lynching needs no added indignity to stir our outrage. But torture has a special sting, both because of its willful cruelty and its supposed alienness to America.

“For years, we in Witness Against Torture vigorously protested what was in fact America’s systematic use of torture after 9/11. Like other human rights groups, we wanted the detained men to be subjects before the law, with basic protections and access to U.S. courts. In our work, we did not think much about race.

“Yet Black Lives Matter and other activists impressed on us an uncomfortable truth: that many of the abuses in War on Terror prisons, like solitary confinement, are routine in America’s domestic prisons, holding predominantly people of color. Access to the law, moreover, is no guarantee of justice. Sometimes the law is the problem.

“We began to see torture as part of a continuum of state violence, including in its racial aspect. Almost exclusively, the victims of post-9/11 torture have been brown-skinned Muslim men, demonized with the label ‘terrorist.’ Despite the innocence of most of the men historically held at Guantanamo, the law has been all but useless in freeing them. No one responsible for their torture has been held to legal account, including during the Obama administration. Going forward, our group sought to highlight the parallels between domestic and overseas abuses in a vast system of dehumanizing violence.

“Dismantling anti-black racism is today’s urgent priority. But abuses of power crave synergies, making other causes relevant. Recall that President Trump is an avowed supporter of torture.”