Gina Haspel was named Tuesday by President Trump to head the Central Intelligence Agency, moving into the post opened up by the departure of Mike Pompeo to be secretary of state. A decorated career CIA officer who joined the agency in 1985, she has “extensive overseas experience,” according to the CIA website.
She has also held leadership posts in Washington and was elevated to deputy director of the agency in February. Trump on Tuesday called her “an outstanding person.”
But her past bears a closer look.
Here are six things to know about Haspel:
1. Haspel ran a secret CIA prison in Thailand in 2002, where terror suspects were subjected to waterboarding, a controversial practice that simulates drowning and that many critics define as torture.
2. Haspel also helped carry out a 2005 order that the agency destroy videos of the waterboarding. Back in Washington, as chief of staff to the director of operations for counterterrorism, Jose Rodriquez, she drafted a cable ordering the destruction of the tapes, ProPublica reported. Rodriquez said in his memoir “Hard Measures” that he approved sending the cable to get rid of some “ugly visuals” that would put his people’s lives at risk. A lengthy Justice Department investigation of the tape destruction ended without charges.
3. Her involvement with waterboarding has caused her trouble in the past. When the CIA wanted to name her to run clandestine operations in 2013, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, then the senior Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, blocked the promotion because of her role in the “enhanced interrogation” program and the destruction of the tapes, the Times reported.
4. Her appointment by Trump to deputy director in February of this year also drew flak from the American Civil Liberties Union and others. Senators Ron Wyden and Martin Heinrich, Democrats from Oregon and New Mexico, respectively, wrote President Trump, saying, “Her background makes her unsuitable for the position.” And on Tuesday, Human Rights First’s Raha Wala said, “No one who had a hand in torturing individuals deserves to ever hold public office again, let alone lead an agency.”
5. Defenders have said she was doing a necessarily “dirty job” in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks in New York and Washington, NPR reported. At the time, the government was desperately scrambling to make sure the country was protected and the culprits in the attack were hunted down. When she was picked as deputy director in February, she was lauded by veteran intelligence officials, including former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who recently retired.
6. There is no immediate indication that Trump’s pick of Haspel signals a desire to restart the harsh interrogation and detention program, which has been banned. Trump has sent mixed signals on the issue. He has said repeatedly that he thinks torture works. But he also said after winning the election that he had been persuaded by his secretary of defense, James Mattis, that torture does not work.Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.