The process of confirming the new CIA director is going to be interesting. After firing Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State, Trump nominated CIA Director Mike Pompeo to take his seat in the cabinet. Trump also nominated Gina Haspel to become the next director of the CIA.
If confirmed, this career intelligence officer will become the first woman to head the agency.
Haspel currently serves as the deputy director of the agency, and she is well-regarded within her ranks. The focus of her nomination will most likely be the role she played in the CIA’s “black sites” – the overseas prisons the agency used to hold and interrogate top al Qaeda terrorists.
She held several senior leadership positions within the agency’s National Clandestine Service which oversees the spy operations overseas and the CIA’s most covert operations programs.
Haspel served as Deputy Director of the National Clandestine Service, Deputy Director of the National Clandestine Service for Foreign Intelligence and Covert Action, and Chief of Staff for the Director of the National Clandestine Service.
She is a decorated CIA officer and has been awarded the George H. W. Bush Award for excellence in counterterrorism, the Donovan Award, and the Intelligence Medal of Merit. She is also a recipient of the Presidential Rank Award, the most prestigious award in the federal civil service.
During her confirmation process, the Senate hearings will likely focus on her role in the agency’s controversial rendition program where top al Qaeda detainees were held in secret CIA “black sites” overseas.
Haspel reportedly headed the agency’s “black site” in Thailand that held senior al Qaeda operatives Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Raham al-Nashiri.
According to a report from the Senate Intelligence Committee, Zubaydah was subjected to waterboarding 83 times to get intelligence about al Qaeda’s operations. Human rights groups have called this “enhanced interrogation technique” nothing short of torture.
According to the report, Zubaydah was also subjected to “stress” techniques that included being slammed against walls, sleep deprivation and being placed in a coffin-sized box for up to 226 hours.
Human Rights Watch has detailed her leadership positions during this timeframe as a sign that she would have had direct knowledge of the controversial programs.
There are also reports that Haspel advocated for the destruction of a video recording of Zubaydah’s interrogations. The video was destroyed by the CIA in 2005 and that triggered an investigation that resulted in no charges being filed.
Haspel’s nomination has strong support from the intelligence community.
“She’s a great choice. She’s really, really solid leader,” said Richard Ledgett, the former deputy director at the NSA and an ABC News contributor. “I think that she will do a great job leading the agency.”
Ledgett does not think that Haspel’s links to the CIA detention program will slow down her confirmation.
“The fact that people disagree with the policy of that is their right, but I think that she executed correctly within the confines of the law and the guidance that she was given,” said Ledgett.
Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona noted that Haspel’s CIA career “has intersected with the program of so-called ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ on a number of occasions.”
“The torture of detainees in US custody during the last decade was one of the darkest chapters in American history,” McCain said in a statement.“Ms. Haspel needs to explain the nature and extent of her involvement in the CIA’s interrogation program during the confirmation process.”
NEW: Sen. John McCain: Gina Haspel, Pres. Trump’s new nominee to lead the CIA, “needs to explain the nature and extent of her involvement in the CIA’s interrogation program during the confirmation process. https://t.co/THsZhqzIDy pic.twitter.com/zvxyIOWmE0
— ABC News (@ABC) March 13, 2018
McCain, a victim of torture by North Vietnamese guards while a prisoner of war, is seeking the same assurances from Haspel that were made by CIA Director Mike Pompeo during his confirmation hearing. He said that the agency “would comply with the law that applies the Army Field Manual’s interrogation requirements.”
“The torture of detainees in U.S. custody during the last decade was one of the darkest chapters in American history,” McCain said in a statement.
“Ms. Haspel needs to explain the nature and extent of her involvement in the CIA’s interrogation program during the confirmation process,” he added. “I know the Senate will do its job in examining Ms. Haspel’s record as well as her beliefs about torture and her approach to current law.”
Christopher Anders, the deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington legislative office, demanded that the CIA declassify and release “every aspect of Haspel’s torture record” before considering the nomination.
“Gina Haspel was a central figure in one of the most illegal and shameful chapters in modern American history,” said Ander. “She was up to her eyeballs in torture, both in running a secret torture prison in Thailand and carrying out an order to cover up torture crimes by destroying videotapes.”
Do you think Haspel is going to experience trouble with this nomination?
Credit: ABC News