Washington, D.C.— After announcing Tuesday that CIA Director Mike Pompeo had been selected to replace outgoing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, President Donald Trump named Deputy CIA Director Gina Haspel as his choice to become the intelligence agency’s new Director.
Haspel is intimately connected to one of the CIA’s most controversial programs in recent memory, as she was in charge of the U.S. torture of terror suspects. The newly named CIA director was reportedly involved in the torture and interrogation of two suspected members of al-Qaeda, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, while working as a clandestine officer in Thailand in 2002.
According to a report in The New Yorker:
From 2003 to 2005, Gina Haspel was a senior official overseeing a top-secret C.I.A. program that subjected dozens of suspected terrorists to savage interrogations, which included depriving them of sleep, squeezing them into coffins, and forcing water down their throats. In 2002, Haspel was among the C.I.A. officers present at the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, an Al Qaeda suspect who was tortured so brutally that at one point he appeared to be dead.
Not only did Haspel oversee the controversial torture program, but in 2005 she also took part in the coverup of the evidence in relation to the torture program by destroying recordings of the torture of Zubaydah and al-Nashiri at which she was present.
Until 2009, CIA operatives were able to legally torture suspected terrorists in “black sites” across the world until then-President Barack Obama ended the practice via executive order. The secret CIA program, known as R.D.I.— rendition, detention, and interrogation— involved kidnapping terror suspects from across the world and delivering them to third party countries to be tortured.
John Sifton, a senior official at Human Rights Watch, said that Haspel’s extensive connection to the secret CIA program is significant.
“You are putting a person in a leadership position who was centrally involved in an illegal program,” Sifton told The New Yorker.
The promotion of Haspel is a reflection of Trump and Pompeo’s proclivity to accept torture as legitimate. Trump has previously stated that he would like to reinstate waterboarding, with Pompeo previously on record noting that he would consider reinstating it. Trump’s own Secretary of Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, told him that torture was ineffective, and that a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers would elicit more intelligence than torture.
Sen. Ron Wyden weighed in on the announcement, noting that the “government can no longer cover up disturbing facts from her past.”
“Ms. Haspel’s background makes her unsuitable to serve as CIA director,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said in a statement Tuesday. “Her nomination must include total transparency about this background, which I called for more than a year ago when she was appointed deputy director. If Ms. Haspel seeks to serve at the highest levels of U.S. intelligence, the government can no longer cover up disturbing facts from her past.”