Gina Haspel is a career CIA official and would be the first woman to head the agency. But her involvement in operating CIA “black sites” during the Bush administration is controversial. Just the FAQs.
WASHINGTON — Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee say they are increasingly “disturbed” by classified information they are reading about CIA director nominee Gina Haspel, and Sen. Ron Wyden charged Tuesday that the agency is engaged in a “cover-up” of her covert actions.
Although the senators are barred by federal law from disclosing what they’ve read, it has been widely reported that Haspel was involved in the CIA’s use of torture while interrogating suspected terrorists during the George W. Bush administration. She also reportedly carried out orders to destroy videotapes showing prisoners being waterboarded.
Wyden said his concerns about Haspel, who has served as the agency’s deputy director since early last year, “are significantly broader than what has been alleged in the press.”
“They’re (the CIA) doing everything they can to keep the facts from getting out,” Wyden, D-Ore., said in an interview. “I believe there is a cover-up of her background.”
CIA spokesman Ryan Trapani said Tuesday that the agency is working to release as many details of Haspel’s long — and by nature secretive — career as possible without jeopardizing national security.
The CIA, armed with a budget of $200million, used the brutal and discredited techniques on 119 detainees.
At least 39 detainees experienced techniques such as waterboarding which the Justice Department never approved.
Other abuse included threats to kill or sexually assault family members, including children.
At least 17 detainees were tortured without the approval of CIA HQ. At least 26 detainees were wrongly held.
One man at a notorious ‘dark prison’ in Afghanistan died from hypothermia after being shackled, nearly naked, to a concrete floor.
Some of the CIA operatives had violent and abusive backgrounds which should have barred them from the agency.
“Deputy Director Haspel has a storied career at CIA and a record of tremendous service to this country,” Trapani said in a statement. “Prior to last year, Deputy Director Haspel’s entire career at CIA was classified, including the fact she worked at CIA. CIA has made publicly available many details and will continue to see what additional information can be made available consistent with national security requirements.”
Trapani said the agency will share her classified record with all senators and not just with the Senate Intelligence Committee, which normally gets an exclusive look at secret documents.
“Through the confirmation process, the American public will get to know her for the first time,” Trapani said. “When they do, we are confident America will be proud to have the Deputy Director as the next CIA Director.”
Wyden, along with Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., wrote a letter to current CIA Director Mike Pompeo this week asking him to declassify information about Haspel’s 33-year career at the CIA so that the public and the full Senate can read what she has done.
Feinstein is the former chairman of the committee and oversaw the production of a 2014 report on the CIA’s use of torture to interrogate suspected terrorists after the 9/11 attacks. President Obama banned the use of torture in a 2009 executive order, and Congress solidified the ban in a 2015 defense bill.
“The more we review the classified facts, the more disturbed we are, both by the actions she (Haspel) has taken during her career and by the CIA’s failure to allow the public the opportunity to consider them,” the senators wrote in their fifth letter to Pompeo.
Wyden said it will be “pretty hard” for senators to ask Haspel crucial questions about her actions at the CIA while they try to avoid revealing classified information.
“The American people need to know what this is all about,” Wyden said.
If confirmed by the Senate, Haspel would become the first woman to head the agency. She would replace Pompeo, who has been nominated by President Trump to serve as secretary of State.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., has expressed strong support for Haspel, who has spent the bulk of her career in secret counterintelligence operations around the world.
“I know Gina personally and she has the right skill set, experience, and judgment to lead one of our nation’s most critical agencies,” Burr said in a recent statement.
In an April 9 letter to the committee, more than 50 former national security officials from both Democratic and Republican administrations — including former CIA directors John Brennan, Leon Panetta, George Tenet and Michael Hayden — endorsed Haspel.
“Ms. Haspel’s qualifications to become CIA Director match or exceed those of most candidates put forward in the Agency’s 70-year history,” they wrote. “She has spent more than 30 years of her life quietly serving America and the CIA, routinely stepping up to handle some of the most demanding assignments around the globe.”
Haspel’s numerous awards have included the Intelligence Medal of Merit, a Presidential Rank Award, and the George H.W. Bush Award for Excellence in Counterterrorism.
However, Haspel’s confirmation by the Senate is far from certain. Republicans hold a slim 51-49 majority, and Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky has already come out against Haspel’s nomination because of her involvement in torture. It’s not clear how many Democrats will support her.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a former prisoner of war who was tortured by the North Vietnamese, also has expressed concern about Haspel. It’s not certain if McCain, who has been undergoing treatment for brain cancer, will be well enough to vote on her confirmation.
“Ms. Haspel needs to explain the nature and extent of her involvement in the CIA’s interrogation program during the confirmation process,” McCain said last month.
An array of former intelligence and other government officials signed a letter to the Senate intelligence committee in support of Gina Haspel, the nominee for CIA director.
Haspel, who is currently the deputy CIA director, was briefly in charge of a black site prison in Thailand during President George W. Bush’s administration. She helped destroy evidence to cover up torture. Agency personnel nicknamed her “Bloody Gina.”
The officials signed on to the letter make up a veritable who’s who of individuals who escaped accountability for their actions in the Bush administration. They also include individuals who have developed a reputation as advocates for The Resistance™ to President Donald Trump.
It was signed by Jeremy Bash, Cofer Black, John Brennan, James Clapper, Porter Goss, Michael Hayden, Henry Kissinger, Mike Morell, Mike Mukasey, John Negroponte, Leon Panetta, John Rizzo, Jose Rodriguez, George Tenet, Fran Townsend, and others.
“Ms. Haspel is a proven leader who inspires others and has what it takes to make tough calls in times of crisis. She is a true intelligence professional who brings care, integrity, and a commitment to the rule of law to her work every day,” the letter declares.
Haspel also made the “tough call” to be a part of a CIA conspiracy to destroy videotapes showing the torture of Nashiri and Abu Zubaydah, and as the chief of staff to National Clandestine Service chief Jose Rodriguez, she drafted a cable that approved the destruction. It even featured instructions on how to get rid of the tapes with an “industrial-strength shredder.”
The act inspired the Senate intelligence committee to pursue a study of the CIA’s torture program, which eventually led to a more than 6,000-page report documenting agency abuses.
Who is Gina Haspel? Here are a few things you may not know about her.
She is 61 years old.
She is a career intelligence officer and has worked for the CIA since 1985.
Haspel ran a CIA prison in Thailand in 2002. According to The New York Times, Haspel was part of the Rendition, Detention, and Interrogation program which “oversaw the torture of two terrorism suspects.”
The Washington Post reported that Haspel was part of a group of CIA officials involved in the decision to destroy videotapes of interrogation sessions that left some detainees on the brink of physical collapse.”
She served as chief of staff for the director of the National Clandestine Service.
In 2013, she was nominated for the position of deputy director of the National Clandestine Service. The National Clandestine Service is in charge of covert operations across the globe. She was not confirmed for that position after senators questioned her actions in the Rendition, Detention and Interrogation program.
Haspel served as the deputy director of the National Clandestine Service for Foreign Intelligence and Covert Action.
She was appointed deputy director of the CIA by Trump in February 2017.
She has been awarded the George H. W. Bush Award for excellence in counterterrorism; the Donovan Award; the Intelligence Medal of Merit; and the Presidential Rank Award, the most prestigious award in the federal civil service.
She is well-respected in the intelligence community.