Who Is Gina Haspel?
Gina Cheri Haspel is the current deputy director of the C.I.A. serving under Director Mike Pompeo. In March 2018 President Trump tapped Pompeo to replace Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State and subsequently nominated Haspel as the new head of the intelligence agency. Haspel has built her longstanding career as an operative, working extensively overseas as a head spy at secret torture prisons. If confirmed by the Senate, Haspel will be the first female director in the C.I.A.'s history and its first operator to hold the position since William Colby, who led the agency in 1973.
In 2002 Haspel oversaw what was called a "black site" (a covert C.I.A. facility that imprisoned terrorist suspects) in Thailand. Among the detainees who passed through the facility were suspected al Qaeda terrorists Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri and Abu Zubaydah. In declassified C.I.A. intel, it was reported that Haspel was heavily involved in the torture of Zubaydah, who in just one month, was waterboarded 83 times, kept in a box, and lost one of his eyes.
Added to the controversy, Haspel is said to have ordered the destruction of video evidence that showed al-Nashiri and Zubaydah's interrogations, while under the supervision of C.I.A. Counterrorism Center director Jose Rodriguez.
Outcry Among Civil Rights Organizations
Among human rights organizations, Haspel has been highly criticized. The former ACLU deputy legal director, Jameel Jaffer, has called her “quite literally a war criminal,” and in June 2017 the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) urged Germany's Public Prosecutor General to authorize a warrant for Haspel's arrest regarding the torture of Zubaydah.
The Center for Constitutional Rights, which works directly with individuals who've been tortured by the C.I.A., echoes similar sentiments.
“Gina Haspel should be prosecuted not promoted,” Vincent Warren, executive director of the organization, said in a statement.
Impending Senate Hearing
Needless to say, Haspel's confirmation hearing to become C.I.A. director will have its fair share of critics, as there is bipartisan concern over her counterterrorism tactics.
“Ms. Haspel needs to explain the nature and extent of her involvement in the C.I.A.’s interrogation program during the confirmation process,” Senator John McCain, who was a victim of torture as a P.O.W. in Vietnam, stated. “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.”
Democratic Senator Ron Wyden from Oregon added: “I feel very strongly that information about [Haspel] should be declassified. I think it’s really a cover-up that it hasn’t been declassified.”
But Sen. Richard Burr, on the other hand, was supportive of Haspel's nomination. “I know Gina personally, and she has the right skill set, experience and judgment to lead one of our nation’s most critical agencies,” he said. “I’m proud of her work and know that my committee will continue its positive relationship with the Central Intelligence Agency under her leadership. I look forward to supporting her nomination, ensuring its consideration without delay.”
Haspel began her career with the Central Intelligence Agency in 1985. She has primarily worked at the agency's headquarters and on undercover operations overseas.
She has held various directorial roles, including at the National Clandestine Service. Haspel also served as chief of staff for former Counterterrorism Center director Jose Rodriguez, before being appointed as deputy director of the C.I.A. by President Trump in February 2017.
Haspel is a highly decorated officer. Among her many prestigious awards, she's received the Intelligence Medal of Merit, a Presidential Rank Award and the George H.W. Bush Award for her contributions to counterterrorism.
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