As we and others reported Tuesday, President Trump announced that Rex Tillerson would be replaced as Secretary of State with Mike Pompeo, the head of the CIA. He also nominated Pompeo’s deputy, Gina Haspel, to head the CIA. This didn’t sit too well with Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., who issued a scathing press release accusing her of ties to torture.
“The Senate owes it to the American people to take a hard look at Deputy Director Haspel, whose career at the CIA coincides with some of the darkest moments in recent American history. She oversaw a ‘black site’ prison in Thailand. She approved interrogation techniques that were clearly unlawful at the time, and ordered the destruction of evidence of those practices,” he said.
“Torture is not only abhorrent, torture is a crime. The Senate already—rightly—denied Deputy Director Haspel a post as head of the clandestine service because of the role she played in the Bush Administration’s ‘enhanced interrogation’ program. The Senate should not confirm Deputy Director Haspel to lead the CIA,” he added.
Nadler wasn’t alone in his condemnation of Haspel.
According to the Daily Beast:
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Haspel, whom under Pompeo became the agency’s deputy director, briefly ran the off-the-books prison in Thailand used as a torture laboratory for the earliest detained terrorism suspects. There, in 2002—including while Haspel ran the so-called black site—the man known as Abu Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times; stuffed into a wooden box barely bigger than a coffin; had his body shackled in painful contorted positions; and had his head slammed into walls.
“If Ms. Haspel seeks to serve at the highest levels of U.S. intelligence, the government can no longer cover up disturbing facts from the past,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), a member of the intelligence committee who opposes her nomination, told The Daily Beast in a statement Tuesday.
“Ms. Haspel’s background makes her unsuitable to serve as CIA director. Her nomination must include total transparency about this background,” Wyden added.
“We have really serious concerns about her heading the CIA. It was already troubling that she was appointed to be deputy,” Laura Pitter of Human Rights Watch said, the Daily Beast reported. “Someone with that kind of history should not be made to head an organization with as much power and responsibility, often carried out in secret, like the CIA has.”
But former deputy CIA director Michael Morell says not so fast.
“I applaud the appointment,” he said in 2017 when she was first nominated to serve as deputy director. “Haspel will serve Pompeo, the Agency, and her country extremely well. She is widely respected throughout the Agency, and she will be welcomed in the new job by both current and former employees.”
I worked closely with Haspel from 2006 until my retirement from the Agency in 2013. During that time, I found her to be simply exceptional. She provides advice based on facts and analysis of facts. She gets things done in a quiet, yet effective way, and she is calm under fire.
She appreciates the work of all CIA officers – analysts, scientists, and support specialists, as much as she appreciates operations officers.
Haspel does more than most senior CIA officers to ensuring that all officers get the training, assignments, and experiences they need to succeed. Officers of all levels of seniority speak of the time she spends with them and what they have learned from that.
Like Director Pompeo with whom she will be working, Haspel’s personality is warm and engaging. She has a sense of humor, which is typically self-deprecating. They will make a great team.
As for the charges Nadler and others leveled, he wrote: “The media is also likely to refer to a moment in her career when she drafted a cable instructing a field station to destroy videotapes of CIA interrogations of senior al Qaeda operatives. She did so at the request of her direct supervisor and believing that it was lawful to do so. I personally led an accountability exercise that cleared Haspel of any wrongdoing in the case.”
“The men and women of the Agency are very lucky to have her as deputy director,” he said in conclusion. “I’m lucky to count her as a friend.”
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