Who is Gina Haspel? Trump's pick for CIA chief linked to torture site



Donald Trump’s pick for head of the Central Intelligence Agency, Gina Haspel, reportedly oversaw a black site prison in Thailand where terrorism suspects were tortured. She briefly ran the prison in 2002, anonymous officials told the Associated Press.

If the US Senate confirms Haspel, she would be the first female director of the agency, but the historic significance of her nomination was immediately overshadowed by her reported link to the black site, where two suspected al-Qaida members were waterboarded.

“The fact that she’s been able to stay in the agency, rise in the agency and now is in line to be director should be deeply troubling,” Larry Siems, author of the Torture Report, a book analysing government documents relating to Bush-era torture released in 2014, told the Guardian.

Haspel also drafted a cable ordering the destruction of CIA interrogation videos in 2005.

A US justice department investigation into the tapes’ destruction ended without charges, but the event helped spark a landmark investigation into US detentions and interrogations.

Christopher Anders, deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington legislative office, claimed Haspel “was up to her eyeballs in torture”.

Anders urged the CIA to declassify her torture record before the Senate considers her nomination.

This was echoed by John McCain, the Arizona senator who was tortured during the Vietnam war.

“Ms Haspel needs to explain the nature and extent of her involvement in the CIA’s interrogation program during the confirmation process,” McCain said. He called the torture of US detainees during the Bush era “one of the darkest chapters in American history”.

Haspel joined the CIA in 1985 and has extensive overseas experience. She was deputy director of the CIA’s National Clandestine Services and has held several other leadership roles in the agency.

“I am grateful to President Trump for the opportunity, and humbled by his confidence in me, to be nominated to be the next director of the Central Intelligence Agency,” Haspel said in a statement. “If confirmed, I look forward to providing President Trump the outstanding intelligence support he has grown to expect during his first year in office.”

Haspel’s nomination was heralded by prominent members of the intelligence community, including Obama official James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence.

“I think the world of Gina; she is capable, smart, very experienced, well respected by the Agency rank and file, and a great person,” Clapper said in a post on the Cipher Brief, a global security website.

Clapper’s ringing endorsement did come with a note of caution: “I think Gina will be excellent as director, as long as she is ready to be fired at a moment’s notice.”

Clapper, and other former intelligence officials, said they expected Haspel would be confirmed for the position, though it is not clear whether some Democrats will challenge her appointment.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who blocked Haspel’s promotion within the clandestine service, in 2013 signalled that she would vote for both Haspel and Mike Pompeo, Trump’s choice for the new secretary of state.

Haspel’s alleged links to the Thai black site were scrutinized in February last year when Trump appointed her CIA deputy director, where she worked under Pompeo.

If confirmed by the Senate, Haspel will take Pompeo’s post. He has been selected to take over the secretary of state job, succeeding Rex Tillerson.

Pompeo said in a statement: “I am proud of the work we have done on behalf of America and know that the agency will continue to thrive under the leadership of Gina Haspel.”