“Everyone at the CIA in the post-Sept. 11 era was simply doing what they were asked to do in the aftermath of a crisis.”
General Michael Hayden — former NSA and CIA Director
“The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him.”
The United Nations International Law Commission
Many believe that the Senate intelligence committee should not confirm Gina Haspel as the new CIA director considering that she oversaw the agency’s torture and rendition program, which arguably ranks among some of the bleakest chapters in American history. Former CIA Director Michael Hayden suggests that she was just following orders. Follow us on Twitter: @Intel_Today
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Former CIA Director John Brennan has declined to say what Haspel’s exact role was in the interrogation program, but he told NBC News on Tuesday that she has a “lot of integrity” and has tried to carry out her agency duties “when asked to do difficult things in challenging times.”
This line of defense did not exactly worked very well for those who tried it after WWII, as Jon Schwarz explains in a piece publshed by The Intercept: “Washington Breaks Out the “Just Following Orders” Nazi Defense for CIA Director-Designate Gina Haspel”
During the Nuremberg Trials after World War II, several Nazis, including top German generals Alfred Jodl and Wilhelm Keitel, claimed they were not guilty of the tribunal’s charges because they had been acting at the directive of their superiors.
Ever since, this justification has been popularly known as the “Nuremberg defense,” in which the accused states they were “only following orders.”
The Nuremberg judges rejected the Nuremberg defense, and both Jodl and Keitel were hanged.
The United Nations International Law Commission later codified the underlying principle from Nuremberg as “the fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him.”
This is likely the most famous declaration in the history of international law and is as settled as anything possibly can be. [The Intercept]
As a clandestine officer at the Central Intelligence Agency in 2002, Gina Haspel “oversaw the torture of two terrorism suspects and later took part in an order to destroy videotapes documenting their brutal interrogations at a secret prison in Thailand.” [NYT]
“Are these really the values the US should be promoting? The CIA might as well start issuing uniforms decorated with skulls and lightning bolts,” Edward Snowden wrote on his Twitter account.
Actually, the Nazis had a “Master Interrogator” who was so good at getting information out of American prisoners that he became a legend.
His methods were so effective that the US ended up adopting them. In truth, he never used torture, cruelty, or any of the other techniques that the Nazis are famous for. Hanns-Joachim Gottlob Scharff used a very unusual method: kindness.
“Without Torture” — The Life of a Nazi Interrogator
Hanns-Joachim Gottlob Scharff (December 16, 1907 – September 10, 1992) was a German Luftwaffe interrogator during the Second World War. He has been called the “Master Interrogator” of the Luftwaffe and possibly all of Nazi Germany; he has also been praised for his contribution in shaping U.S. interrogation techniques after the war.
As an Obergefreiter he was charged with interrogating German-captured American fighter pilots during the war after he became an interrogation officer in 1943.
He has been highly praised for the success of his techniques, in particular because he never used physical means to obtain the required information.
Scharff’s interrogation techniques were so effective that he was occasionally called upon to assist other German interrogators in their questioning of bomber pilots and aircrews, including those crews and fighter pilots from countries other than the United States.
Additionally, he was charged with questioning many V.I.P.s (Very Important Prisoners) that were funneled through the interrogation center, namely senior officers and world-famous fighter aces.
In 1948, Scharff was invited by the United States Air Force to give lectures on his interrogation techniques and first-hand experiences.
The U.S. military later incorporated his methods into its curriculum at its interrogation schools. Many of his methods are still taught in US Army interrogation schools. [Wikipedia]
Hanns Scharff Interrogator
The Nazi Interrogator Who Revealed the Value of Kindness — Pacific standard
Hanns-Joachim Gottlob Scharff — “Without Torture”