The campaign to paint President Trump’s CIA director nominee, Gina Haspel, as a ruthless, sadistic torturer known as “Bloody Gina” was initiated by a Russia-funded propagandist for Vladimir Putin’s regime in Moscow.
When President Trump nominated Gina Haspel to be the next CIA director, many of her former colleagues proudly lined up to support her candidacy. They pointed to her dedication and her 30-plus years of service in protecting America’s national security.
Then a firestorm of allegations surfaced. We were told that she was actually the merciless, soulless chief of a ruthless torture program at a CIA black site in Thailand. This story, however, originated from a single source, a man who Conservative Review has discovered is in the pocket of the Kremlin. This man also succeeded in depicting Haspel as someone who took pleasure in using force against detainees. The legacy media ate it all up, spreading the now-debunked allegation like wildfire in the press.
The bombastic allegations against Haspel first surfaced in early 2017, when President Trump nominated her to be deputy director of the CIA.
John Kiriakou, a former CIA case officer who left the agency in disgrace after he was caught passing classified information to reporters and disclosing the identity of an undercover CIA agent (he served two years in jail for it, starting in 2013), claimed in a piece for a far-left blog that Haspel was known to him and several of his colleagues as “Bloody Gina.”
“It was Haspel who was [Jose] Rodriguez’s handpicked warden of the first secret prison the CIA created to handle al-Qaeda detainees,” Kiriakou alleged. He also claimed, “It was Haspel who videotaped the torture of Abu Zubaydah,” a man who is currently being held at Guantanamo Bay and is accused of being a senior lieutenant to Osama Bin Laden.
“Described in the media as a ‘seasoned intelligence veteran,’ Haspel has served in the CIA for more than 30 years, both at Headquarters and in senior positions overseas,” Kiriakou added in his February, 2017 post. “CIA director Mike Pompeo lauded her ‘uncanny ability to get things done’ and said that she ‘inspires those around her.’ Maybe. But many of the rest of us called her ‘Bloody Gina,’ and we kept our distance.”
The piece would later springboard Kiriakou to the attention of the national press, but erode his credibility when it came to the “Bloody Gina” allegation.
After the September 11 attacks on the United States, the U.S. government was committed to finding the individuals responsible for the terror attack that brought tragedy to the lives of thousands of American families. At some point, Haspel was brought to the CIA prison tasked with gathering information from suspected enemies and jihadi terrorists. Gina Haspel served in the agency during those controversial years, yet she was not by any means an architect of the enhanced interrogation program, nor did she take unilateral authority to implement enhanced interrogation procedures. And there’s no record of her taking extrajudicial action, outside of the scope of the administration she was serving under, since joining the CIA in 1985.
When President Trump nominated Haspel to be CIA director, many more researchers began digging into her past, given the prominence of her prospective post. ProPublica found the Kiriakou report and based much of its write-up on his account. Countless media outlets then cited the ProPublica piece, which features Kiriakou prominently, in their reporting on Haspel.
Kiriakou then took to television, spreading even more explosive allegations about Haspel, representing her as someone who enjoyed the process of torturing detainees.
“Gina, and people like Gina, did it because I think they enjoyed doing it,” Kiriakou said in an appearance on Democracy Now. “They tortured just for the sake of torture.” The disgraced CIA officer made similar allegations in other media venues. On Russia Today, he called her the “godmother of torture.”
What ProPublica discovered shortly after running its initial piece, however, is that Kiriakou’s timeline and narrative did not align with the facts. In fact, ProPublica confirmed with multiple firsthand sources that Haspel did not arrive at the base until after the enhanced interrogation practices on Abu Zubaydah and another high-level detainee had concluded. The outlet retracted the falsehood along with the allegation that Haspel had taken pleasure in Zubaydah’s waterboarding, supposedly taunting the alleged jihadi for his struggles with the enhanced interrogation procedures.
Additionally, The New York Times also issued a correction about its timeline concerning Haspel’s involvement in the enhanced interrogation program. The Associated Press, NBC News, The Atlantic, and others followed suit. A shadowy, anonymous “former CIA official” is sourced in the New York Times piece, along with other stories that were later retracted or corrected. Could it have been Kiriakou? That remains unclear.
But the damage was already done. The “Bloody Gina” moniker stuck like Super Glue.
So who is John Kiriakou?
It turns out that shortly following his release from prison for his illegal behavior in disgracing the CIA and outing one of its agents, Mr. Kiriakou, implated with an anti-America chip on his shoulder and $880,000 in outstanding legal fees, turned to Russia for work.
He is a host of the Russia-controlled Sputnik Radio’s “Loud and Clear.” Throughout his show recaps, Kiriakou continuously represents the Kremlin party line. Take a look at some of the show recaps from over the past couple of years:
“Putin Likely to Win Election as Anti-Russia Hysteria Grips US and UK”
“Anti-Russia Crusade Intensifies: Trump & Britain Order New Sanctions”
“100 Years Later: How the Russian Revolution Changed the World”
“The Plot to Scapegoat Russia: How the CIA and the Deep State Have Conspired to Vilify Russia”
“Trump backs Generals’ plan to Stop Russia’s Peace Push in Afghan War”
Moreover, his show consistently tarnishes American foreign policy and top American officials. He also conveniently aligns his viewpoints with every Russian foreign policy objective. He is always kind to Russia’s allies (such as Iran, Venezuela, etc.), and adversarial to her adversaries. Kiriakou’s show does not provide any semblance of informed, independent analysis. Instead, his information resembles that of a Pravda propagandist for the Russian government, which happens to be his employer.
And speaking of Russian propaganda websites, Kiriakou has given countless interviews to Pravda, Russia Today, and other Moscow-controlled entities, in which he articulates similar anti-U.S. themes. In a 2013 interview for Russia Today, he claimed that the United States had become a “police state.” More recently, following President Trump’s decision to fire 59 Tomahawk missiles against an Assad regime base in Syria, Kiriakou claimed that Russia had no involvement in a recent chemical weapons attack on Syrian civilians, even though there is plenty of evidence to the contrary.
Kiriakou also has a credibility problem. He has in the past made a provably false claim about the enhanced interrogation of Abu Zubaydah. He previously told ABC News that the Gitmo detainee broke down after only thirty seconds of enhanced interrogation. When he was called out on his false information, Kiriakou, in an interview with the New Yorker, blamed former colleagues at the CIA for misleading him. This calls into question whether he had firsthand knowledge of Haspel’s role in the interrogation, given that he was relying on outside sourcing for the Abu Zubaydah torture allegations.
Although major elements of Kiriakou’s story have been refuted, he continues to be offered television hits and prominent op-ed space to to spread his disinformation. Just one day after ProPublica issued its massive correction, Kiriakou had an op-ed published in the Washington Post, in which he doubled down on the “Bloody Gina” libel.
“I’m sure that’s true for some. But many of the rest of us who knew and worked with Haspel at the CIA called her ‘Bloody Gina,’” Kiriakou writes, again making the single-source allegation without mentioning who “the rest of us” are. Conservative Review could find no public records of anyone else who served at the CIA referring to Gina Haspel as someone who was known at the agency as “Bloody Gina.”
Now, just do a Google search of “Bloody Gina,” and you will find dozens, if not hundreds of legacy media publications that happily promulgated that specific single-sourced quotation. Search for “Bloody Gina” on Twitter, and you’ll find countless mainstream media journalists and publications spreading Kiriakou’s claims.
We still have much to learn about Haspel’s service at the CIA. According to media reports, she once served as deputy director of the CIA’s Russia group. She has also specialized in counterintelligence and terrorism issues. It is expected that she will fill in more of the unknown gaps during nomination hearings.
Other than Kiriakou, her former colleagues — on both sides of the political aisle — appear to show great respect for her service. Former acting CIA Director Michael Morell has described her as a “widely respected” person “throughout the agency.” Even the anti-Trump Obama CIA chief, John Brennan, has recommended her confirmation. John Sipher, a 28-year veteran of the CIA, describes her as a “professional who you’d expect to provide unbiased and reliable information.”
It’s important to clarify that there is no evidence that Kiriakou’s “Bloody Gina” campaign is linked to the upper echelons of the Kremlin. However, as a committed apologist for the Putin regime, Kiriakou knows very well that the CIA has long been a thorn in the side of Moscow. “Bloody Gina” serves to once again remind listeners of controversial times at the agency, while simultaneously spreading allegations that can damage the reputation — or even destroy the candidacy — of President Trump’s chosen nominee for CIA director.
John Kiriakou did not respond to multiple questions about the claims that he has made about CIA director nominee Gina Haspel. CR will update this story if he responds.