Sept. 11 Architect Wants To Tell Senators About Haspel

May 12, 2018
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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

President Trump's nominee for head of the CIA, Gina Haspel, was questioned by the Senate about her role in the agency's interrogation programs after 9/11.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GINA HASPEL: Under my leadership, on my watch, CIA will not restart a detention and interrogation program.

SIMON: Many senators believe she did not oppose torture strongly enough. One voice that has risen this week includes the architect of that 2001 attack, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, known as KSM. He's been in U.S. custody for 15 years and has been waterboarded 183 times over 15 sessions. He says through his lawyers that he has information about Haspel that he wants to share with the Senate Intelligence Committee. His lead lawyer, David Nevin, joins us now from the studios of Boise State Public Radio. Thanks so much for being with us.

DAVID NEVIN: Thanks for having me.

SIMON: What does your client want to tell them?

NEVIN: Well, I can't tell you that. His observations - very uniquely in the history of classification, his observations while he was involved in the torture program have been classified at the top-secret level. And so there are distinct limitations on my ability to describe what it is he wants to say.

SIMON: Unless Gina Haspel held the cup of water over his head, how would he know that she was in any way involved and have information that was pertinent?

NEVIN: That's information I can't provide to you either because it falls within the prohibitions that I was just referring to.

SIMON: What have you been told? Is it possible to share this information?

NEVIN: The information is treated as classified at the top-secret level. It is protected by several special-access programs. I trust that the members of the Senate committee are read into the same program, and so it shouldn't be a problem to provide them with the information.

SIMON: But on the other hand, you haven't yet been provided the avenue or schedule to do that.

NEVIN: Exactly. And interestingly, we learned, I believe, during the open session with Ms. Haspel that she is the one who is controlling those classification decisions. She is acting as the OCA, the original classification authority, for material related to her confirmation. So it should be within her power to permit this to happen.

SIMON: Or, as you read it, within her power to not permit it to happen.

NEVIN: Precisely.

SIMON: And you'd like to draw attention to that.

NEVIN: My client has a right under the Convention against Torture to complain about his torture and to seek redress for it. The United States is one of 155 signatories to that convention, and the Senate ratified it. So, yes, he would like to be heard, you know, on the question of what he knows about this. The impact of that is another matter. But, yes, there is a desire for him to be able to provide that information.

SIMON: So you know this information.

NEVIN: Yes.

SIMON: In your best legal judgment, does it bear on Gina Haspel's nomination?

NEVIN: I don't think that's a legal determination whether she should be confirmed.

SIMON: Let me put it this way. Does this information, in your mind, bear on her fitness to serve in office?

NEVIN: I think it does, but I will say that carefully because I not only can't reveal the information, I can't hint at it or confirm or deny its impact or its effect.

SIMON: As you note, your client, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, is entitled to a vigorous defense. He's entitled under international law to complain about his torture. How do you answer the concerns, though, of people that he's just continuing his mission of trying to foul things up in the United States?

NEVIN: I understand that concern, but a decision has been made to prosecute him, and the decision has been made to prosecute him in a capital case. The government wants to kill him deliberately and intentionally if he's convicted of these charges.

SIMON: In reprisal for 3,000 deaths.

NEVIN: Yes.

SIMON: Mr. Nevin, how does your client even know that Gina Haspel's been nominated to be head of the CIA?

NEVIN: It's necessary in order for him to defend himself against these charges that he be aware of events going on around the country because they bear on - and around the world - because they bear on the environment in which he is being prosecuted. And he does have access to contemporaneous news sources, and this has come to his attention just in the normal course of his awareness of those activities.

SIMON: David Nevin - he is the lead attorney representing Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Mr. Nevin, thanks so much for being with us.

NEVIN: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.