Tor­ture role shad­ows Trump’s pick to lead CIA

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NATIONAL - DEB RIECH­MANN In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was con­trib­uted by Frank Jor­dans of The As­so­ci­ated Press.

WASH­ING­TON — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s pick to be the next — and first fe­male — di­rec­tor of the clan­des­tine agency has conflicting pub­lic rep­u­ta­tions, with col­leagues de­scrib­ing Gina Haspel as a sea­soned vet­eran who would lead the CIA with in­tegrity and hu­man-rights ad­vo­cates see­ing her as some­one who su­per­vised tor­ture at a se­cret prison.

If con­firmed by the Se­nate, the 61-year-old ca­reer spy­mas­ter will suc­ceed Mike Pom­peo, who is piced to re­place ousted Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son.

Haspel didn’t have to face a con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing when she be­came deputy di­rec­tor of the agency in Fe­bru­ary 2017. To be di­rec­tor, she’ll have to be con­firmed by the Se­nate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee. That will likely mean ques­tions about one of the dark­est pe­ri­ods of the CIA’s his­tory.

Haspel had a front-row seat to the CIA’s use of harsh in­ter­ro­ga­tion tech­niques against ter­ror sus­pects. Be­tween 2003 and 2005, she over­saw a se­cret CIA prison in Thai­land where ter­ror sus­pects Abu Zubayadah and Abd al Rahim al-Nashiri were wa­ter­boarded, cur­rent and for­mer U.S. in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials said. Wa­ter­board­ing is a process that sim­u­lates drown­ing and is widely con­sid­ered to be a form of tor­ture.

Haspel, who joined the CIA in 1985, also helped carry out an or­der to de­stroy wa­ter­board­ing videos. The or­der prompted a lengthy Jus­tice De­part­ment in­ves­ti­ga­tion that ended with­out charges.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said Haspel must ex­plain the na­ture and ex­tent of her in­volve­ment in the CIA’s in­ter­ro­ga­tion pro­gram.

“Cur­rent U.S. law is clear in ban­ning en­hanced in­ter­ro­ga­tion tech­niques,” said McCain, who was beaten as a pris­oner dur­ing the Viet­nam War. “Any nom­i­nee for di­rec­tor of the CIA must pledge with­out reser­va­tion to up­hold this pro­hi­bi­tion.”

For­mer CIA Di­rec­tor John Bren­nan de­clined to say what Haspel’s ex­act role was in the in­ter­ro­ga­tion pro­gram, but told NBC that she has a “lot of in­tegrity” and has tried to carry out her agency du­ties “when asked to do dif­fi­cult things in chal­leng­ing times.”

He said her ac­tiv­i­ties dur­ing the in­ter­ro­ga­tion pro­gram will be closely scru­ti­nized dur­ing her con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing, but he pre­dicted she would be con­firmed.

“Gina is a very com­pe­tent pro­fes­sional who I think de­serves the chance to take the seat,” Bren­nan said.

Sen. Richard Burr, the chair­man of the Se­nate com­mit­tee that will vote whether to con­firm Haspel, said she has the “right skill set, ex­pe­ri­ence and judg­ment” to lead the CIA.

While he would face steep le­gal and leg­isla­tive hur­dles to do so, Trump has said that he would rein­tro­duce wa­ter­board­ing and “a lot worse.” His po­si­tion has an­gered hu­man-rights ad­vo­cates, and they op­posed his de­ci­sion to put Haspel at the helm of the CIA.

“No one who had a hand in tor­tur­ing in­di­vid­u­als de­serves to ever hold pub­lic of­fice again, let alone lead an agency,” Hu­man Rights First’s Raha Wala said Tues­day. “To al­low some­one who had a di­rect hand in this il­le­gal, im­moral and coun­ter­pro­duc­tive pro­gram is to will­ingly for­get our na­tion’s dark his­tory with tor­ture.”

In a brief state­ment, Haspel said she was “hum­bled” by Trump’s con­fi­dence in her to lead the CIA.


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