FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE December 23, 2020
Medea Benjamin | CODEPINK | [email protected] | 415-235-6517
Marcy Winograd | Progressive Democrats of America | [email protected] | 424-443-9338
Jeremy Varon | Witness Against Torture | [email protected] | 732-979-3119
Washington DC: Peace group CODEPINK is relieved to hear that Mike Morell has withdrawn his name from consideration to become director of the CIA under the incoming Biden administration. CODEPINK has been opposing his nomination for months, including just releasing a letter from torture survivors and their advocates urging President-elect Biden not to nominate Morell. Morell, a CIA analyst under Bush and both Deputy and Acting CIA Director under Obama, defended the CIA torture during the Bush-era, invoking the euphemism "enhanced interrogation" practices to describe waterboarding, physical beatings, sleep deprivation, stress positions, and sexual humiliation.
“Mike Morell’s appointment would have been a callous rebuke to survivors of torture and all those who care about human rights and the protection of basic dignity,” said CODEPINK co-founder Medea Benjamin. “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 for CIA and drone kill list and torture enabler Avril Haines for Director of National Intelligence.No torture apologists should be allowed to serve in this administration. Period.”
In 2014, the Senate Intelligence Committee issued the 500-page summary of its “Torture Report,” denouncing CIA torture as both inhumane and ineffective and concluded that the Agency’s use of torture was far more frequent and gruesome than had been previously acknowledged. However, in his 2015 memoir, Morell asserted without evidence that torture was effective. The Military Times reported that the Senate intelligence committee staffers were so troubled by Morell’s claims that they issued a lengthy rebuttal in a special report blasting Morell’s numerous errors and misrepresentation of established facts.
Morell also defended the CIA’s destruction in 2005 of nearly 90 videotapes of brutal interrogations at CIA black sites.
Medea Benjamin of CODEPINK, Marcy Winograd of Progressive Democrats of America, 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 included 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, resulting in him withdrawing from consideration. We are relieved that Morell’s nomination is off the table and also ask Biden and the Senate to reject Avril Haines due to her complicity in suppressing evidence of CIA torture and her support for killer drones.”
CODEPINK and others will continue to oppose Avril Haines, another torture apologist, as Director of National Intelligence. Since she has already been nominated, they are asking Senators to oppose her confirmation because of her role not only in the drone bombings and censorship of the Senate Intelligence Committee Report on Torture but also because her decision to over-rule the CIA Inspector General in refusing to discipline CIA agents who hacked into investigators’ computers.
Signatories of the recent letter opposing Morell for CIA director and Haines for National Intelligence included: 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.
“Should the Biden administration insist on going forward with Haines’ nomination, we will put the entire drone program and CIA torture on trial,” says Winograd. “Our campaign will raise the questions we hope Senate Intelligence Committee members will ask of Haines. “How many weddings and funerals did you attack? What legal framework did you provide for drone bombings that are illegal under international law? Why did you over-rule the CIA Inspector General to allow CIA agents off the hook for torture? What was in the torture report you stripped from 6,000 words to a 500-page summary riddled with black ink redactions? Do you think the American people have a right to know the truth about what the government did in our name and with our tax dollars?”
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.”
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. “