White House shake-ups have been common in the era of President Donald Trump. Rex Tillerson has been fired from his role as Secretary of State, which opens the way for CIA Director Mike Pompeo to step up. And that means Gina Haspel will assume command at the agency. So who is Haspel?
There are few pictures of Haspel. The lack of images may have something to do with her past; Haspel worked for more than three decades as a CIA operative.
She is currently the deputy director of the CIA. Trump praised Haspel’s abilities and her relationship with Pompeo. The two, he said Tuesday, “have worked together for more than a year, and have developed a great mutual respect.”
“After 30 years as an officer of the Central Intelligence Agency, it has been my honor to serve as its Deputy Director alongside Mike Pompeo for the past year,” Haspel told reporters. “I am grateful to President Trump for the opportunity, and humbled by his confidence in me, to be nominated to be the next Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.”
Haspel has served as the deputy director for more than a year. Before that, though, her career was overshadowed by controversy. Haspel ran a division that interrogated terror suspects at the now notorious “black sites.”
“Over the past eight years,” The New York Times reported when Trump took office “C.I.A. leaders defended dozens of agency personnel who had taken part in the now-banned torture program, even as they vowed never to resume the same harsh interrogation methods. But President Trump has said repeatedly that he thinks torture works. And the new C.I.A. chief, Mike Pompeo, has said that waterboarding and other techniques do not even constitute torture, and praised as ‘patriots’ those who used such methods in the early days of the fight against Al Qaeda.”
One of those patriots is Haspel.
“Ms. Haspel, who has spent most of her career undercover, would certainly fall within Mr. Pompeo’s description. She played a direct role in the C.I.A.’s ‘extraordinary rendition program,’ under which captured militants were handed to foreign governments and held at secret facilities, where they were tortured by agency personnel.”
Haspel ran the post in Thailand. There, she oversaw the interrogations of Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri.
“Mr. Zubaydah alone was waterboarded 83 times in a single month,” the Times writes, and “had his head repeatedly slammed into walls and endured other harsh methods before interrogators decided he had no useful information to provide.”
Haspel’s reputation hasn’t won her many friends abroad. DW.com writes “The Berlin-based European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) has called on German federal prosecutors to issue an arrest warrant against Gina Haspel, the deputy director of the CIA, who was appointed on February 2.”
The warrant wasn’t issued, though, and Haspel’s promotion shows that the rumors surrounding her past haven’t influenced her leadership abilities. Support for her within the agency is reportedly strong, and she is enjoying the confidence of President Trump. Her confirmation will surely stir up a heated debate.