Haspel Says C.I.A. ‘Historically’ Has Not Interrogated Subjects. History Shows Otherwise.

fact check OF the DAY

Gina Haspel, President Trump’s nominee to lead the Central Intelligence Agency, said in her Senate confirmation hearing on Wednesday that the C.I.A. “historically has not done interrogations.” Here are a few historical examples where the agency did.



This requires context.

Ms. Haspel is right that before the enhanced interrogation program was created in response to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, C.I.A. interrogations usually entailed a conversation or polygraph exam with potential informants or defectors. The C.I.A. has no detention authority and, as a matter of mission, generally does not interrogate detainees.

But the agency has occasionally been involved in interrogations in its past.

A Senate Intelligence Committee report on C.I.A.’s use of torture that was released in 2014, and the agency’s own website, provides several examples.

The relevant portion of the 2014 report reads:

“The C.I.A. did, however, have historical experience using coercive forms of interrogation. In 1963, the C.I.A produced the KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation Manual, intended as a manual for Cold War interrogations, which included the ‘principal coercive techniques of interrogation: arrest, detention, deprivation of sensory stimuli through solitary confinement or similar methods, threats and fear, debility, pain, heightened suggestibility and hypnosis, narcosis and induced regression.’”

Methods described in KUBARK, like forced standing and sensory deprivation, were used by the C.I.A to interrogate a Soviet K.G.B. officer to determine whether he was a legitimate defector.

The KUBARK manual became the basis for the Human Resource Exploitation Training Manual, which provided “interrogation training in Latin America in the early 1980s,” according to the Senate report.

Additionally, a 2007 study posted on the C.I.A.’s website detailed a specific interrogation of a North Vietnamese officer who was captured during the Vietnam War.

The North Vietnamese officer was kept for three years in an isolated cell that was painted bright white. His C.I.A. interrogator nicknamed him “the man in the snow white cell.”

Another study described the Phoenix program, a security program that the C.I.A. ran in South Vietnam during the 1960s. The program, the agency’s study said, involved 600 C.I.A. and military personnel in the interrogation of Viet Cong militants.

Morley Safer, the renowned newsman who had covered the Vietnam War, described the Phoenix program this way in a book review in The New York Times in 1990:

“The Phoenix program became a playground for the demented fringes of both American and Vietnamese society. It was a brothel for both blood lust and printout lust, featuring a weird crew of characters: grizzled Army officers, bespectacled accountants and bloodless computer modelers. It had its own air force, training camps and interrogation centers. Torture chambers, if you like.”

Linda Qiu is a fact-check reporter, based in Washington. She came to the Times in 2017 from the fact-checking service PolitiFact.@ylindaqiu