President Donald Trump has nominated a man with a well-documented history of promoting torture for a top U.S. executive branch post directly involved with human rights policy, Politico reported on Tuesday.
Marshall Billingslea, who currently serves the Trump administration as assistant Treasury secretary for terrorist financing, worked as a senior Pentagon official under President George W. Bush, during which time he openly advocated for the use of torture.
“Guys, it’s time to wake up and smell the coffee. It’s time to take the gloves off,” recalled Major General Thomas Romig, who was the Army’s judge advocate general at that time.
When the then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff suggested only some interrogation techniques be approved, Billingslea urged the approval of all the techniques his working group recommended — even those that were deemed unlawful by top uniformed lawyers.
Politico mentioned the specific case of Mohamedou Ould Slahi — “a Mauritanian man suspected of being a member of al-Qaida who was detained without charge at Guantanamo Bay for 14 years until his release in 2016” — in which Billingslea wrote a memo pushing for torture in 2003.
In a handwritten note, he told then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, “We don't see any policy issues with these interrogation techniques. Recommend you authorize.”
Slahi was subsequently tortured to such an extreme that he began hearing voices, and the Marine officer tasked with his prosecution ultimately resigned “because he determined that the torture had rendered evidence in the case inadmissible.”
Given these facts, it is beyond ironic that Trump would nominate Billingslea for a position overseeing “offices focused on pursuing justice for war crimes, fighting human trafficking and protecting refugees, among other things,” Politico concluded.