CIA PICK is career spymaster.
After 9/11, she oversaw secret location of what critics say was torture
WASHINGTON — Just over a year after the Sept. 11 attacks, the CIA dispatched veteran clandestine officer Gina Haspel to oversee a secret prison in Thailand. Shortly after, agency contractors in the hunt for the conspirators waterboarded an al-qaeda suspect three times and subjected him to brutal interrogation techniques.
Haspel’s time running the prison, code-named Cat’s Eye, began her deep involvement in the CIA’S counterterrorism operations and showed her willingness to take part in the agency’s rendition, detention and interrogation program, which shaped her career. She was a rising star until that dark chapter in CIA history began to emerge publicly.
But under President Donald Trump, her fortunes changed, and on Tuesday he said he intended to name her director of the CIA.
With his elevation of Haspel, now the agency’s deputy director, Trump displayed a willingness to ignore the widespread denunciations of waterboarding, sleep deprivation, confinements in boxes and other interrogation techniques that were used by the CIA more than a decade ago.
Her nomination is certain to reignite the debate over their use and the resulting psychological damage for terrorism suspects. Although lawmakers, human rights activists and others eventually condemned the interrogation methods as torture, the program had defenders. Among them was Trump, who vowed during his campaign to bring back waterboarding and once said “torture works,” although he later backed off that declaration.
Haspel, 61, would be the first woman to run the CIA if confirmed by the Senate.
“She is an outstanding person who also I have gotten to know very well,” Trump said Tuesday.
During her Senate confirmation hearings, Haspel will be forced to answer questions about waterboarding and her interactions with detainees. She will probably have to answer whether she would agree to reinstate waterboarding as the president has suggested and whether she thinks torture is an effective way to extract information from terrorism suspects.
“I don’t envy her trying to get through confirmation,” said Robert Eatinger, the former top lawyer in the CIA’S Counterterrorism Center. “It’s going to be the first chance for senators to have someone intimately involved in the program in front of them to answer questions. I think they’ll take full advantage of that opportunity.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Dcalif., the former chair of the Intelligence Committee, oversaw its probe of the program.
“She has been, I believe, a good deputy director,” Feinstein said. “She seems to have the confidence of the agency.”