On Thursday evening, ProPublica issued a retraction and apology for a February 2017 article in which the news organization erroneously reported that Gina Haspel, the veteran CIA officer President Trump has tapped to lead the agency, was in charge of a secret CIA prison in Thailand when al Qaeda suspect Abu Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times in one month. "The story also said she mocked the prisoner's suffering in a private conversation," ProPublica editor in chief Stephen Engelberg wrote. "Neither of these assertions is correct and we retract them. It is now clear that Haspel did not take charge of the base until after the interrogation of Zubaydah ended."
Haspel was in charge of the black site when another detainee, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, was waterboarded three times, ProPublica says, and it also stands by its reporting that she "pushed her bosses to destroy the tapes of Zubaydah's waterboarding," which they did. "Her actions in that instance, and in the waterboarding of al-Nashiri, are likely to be the focus of questions at her confirmation hearings," Engelberg writes. Waterboarding is widely considered a form of torture, and Trump has proposed and reportedly pulled back an order to reauthorize it and other forms of inhumane coercion as interrogation tools.
"We at ProPublica hold government officials responsible for their missteps, and we must be equally accountable," Engelberg writes. "This error was particularly unfortunate because it muddied an important national debate about Haspel and the CIA's recent history. To her, and to our readers, we can only apologize, correct the record, and make certain that we do better in the future." You can read more about what they got wrong and why at ProPublica, and Bonnie Kristian's argument that Haspel's other actions are still morally suspect at The Week.