There are corrections and there are novellas. The 972-word mea culpa by ProPublica Editor-in-Chief Stephen Engelberg for a scandalous story his “news-gathering organization” ran more than a year ago is closer to the latter than the former.
The original article, which ran in February 2017, claimed that CIA officer Gina Haspel — who Trump had just appointed to the agency’s number two job — ran the secret prison in Thailand where al Qaeda bigwig Abu Zubaydah was being held and oversaw his waterboarding.
That damning claim resurfaced this past Tuesday when Donald Trump nominated Haspel, now a deputy director, to head up the intelligence agency. Hoping to destroy her chances for confirmation, Politico Magazine weighed in with an article titled “Gina Haspel Is a Torturer. What Else Does the Senate Need to Know?” The piece alleged:
Haspel was no mere CIA paper-shuffler. By all accounts she was an engaged participant in the torture program. She reportedly ran the CIA’s torture “black site” in Thailand and directly supervised the inhuman interrogations of Al Qaeda suspects Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. Later, when a congressional committee sought to exercise its constitutional oversight of the RDI program, Haspel was instrumental in the destruction of the videos of the black site waterboarding sessions — against the advice of superiors in the Bush administration. This act alone, which I believe was almost certainly motivated by a desire to destroy the evidence that waterboarding exceeded the legal threshold for torture and thus to evade both personal and institutional accountability and oversight, should be sufficient to disqualify her from confirmation.
The Atlantic ran its own hit piece, as did The Washington Post and Democracy Now!, which featured an op-ed and interview respectively with John Kiriakou, a former CIA analyst and current counterterrorism consultant for ABC News, who insists Haspel is the “godmother of torture.”
Just when the mainstream media was feeling good about another collaborative hit job on the president they love to hate, ProPublica came out with its lengthy retraction, which includes the following…