More word from the ongoing attempt to bring the people responsible for years of CIA torture to justice: one of the three waterboarding specialists at Guantanamo was called "The Preacher" because while he was drowning suspects to the point of near death, he "would at random times put one hand on the forehead of a detainee, raise the other high in the air, and in a deep Southern drawl say things like, 'Can you feel it, son? Can you feel the spirit moving down my arm, into your body?'"
The sadistic torturer's real name isn't known. He was codenamed NZ7.
Tales of The Preacher's behavior first surfaced in "Enhanced Interrogation," the torture apologia penned by James Mitchell, the rogue psychologist who designed the CIA's torture program (his company was paid $80m for this work, which also included instructions for anal rape, freezing people to death, and shoving hummus and nuts up men's asses).
Mitchell testified again about The Preacher this week during a pre-trial hearing for five of the men charged with planning and abetting the 9/11 attacks.
Mitchell's testimony paints him as a moderate torturer who was locked in internecine struggle with the CIA's in-house "interrogation chief," codenamed NX2 and believed to be Charlie Wise, a notorious torturer who practiced his craft in Nicaragua for the Contras (Wise died in 2003).
Mitchell describes how, on his tours of CIA torture sites, he would express concern that the techniques employed would maim the victims, and was silenced and even effectively incarcerated — confined to an overseas base with no contact with the outside world. He said he was only released because the "tension" was "damaging morale."
CIA Director Gina Haspel was complicit in both torture and the subsequent coverup. In May, 2018, she was confirmed as Trump's CIA chief. Six Democrat Senators voted to confirm her: Joe Manchin [WV], Heidi Heitkamp [ND], Joe Donnelly [IN], Bill Nelson [FL], Mark Warner [VA] and Jeanne Shahee [NH].
When the senior officials flew in, on 17 August, he waterboarded Abu Zubaydah even though he was quite sure the detainee had no actionable intelligence to surrender. It was done purely as a demonstration for the agency VIPs. And he applied the technique to the maximum extent allowed, pouring water on to a cloth on the prisoner's face for 20 seconds and then a full 40 seconds. According to a CIA cable describing the event, Abu Zubaydah went into spasm.
The visitors were stunned. "Some of the folks were tearful," Mitchell said.
"I was tearful, but I cry at dog food commercials," Mitchell claimed. The psychologist's eyes did indeed well up on a few occasions during his testimony this week, but the tears came when he was describing what he saw as his personal sacrifices. In contrast, he described waterboarding dispassionately, characterising it as "temporary discomfort".
Chilling role of 'the Preacher' confirmed at CIA waterboarding hearing in Guantánamo [Julian Borger/The Guardian]
(Image: Crown, modified)