CIA bypasses highest ranking woman spy for agency's top job

WASHINGTON (AP) - One of the CIA's highest-ranking women, who once ran a CIA prison in Thailand where terror suspects were waterboarded, has been bypassed for the agency's top spy job.

The officer, who remains undercover, was a finalist for the job and would have become the first female chief of clandestine operations.

As one of the last remaining senior CIA officers who held leadership roles in the agency's interrogation and detention program, however, she was a politically risky pick.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the Senate Intelligence Committee's top Democrat, has criticized the interrogation program and challenged its supposed successes in a 6,000-page secret report. She personally urged CIA Director John Brennan not to promote the woman, according to a former senior intelligence briefed on the call.

Through a spokesman, Ms Feinstein said she "conveyed my views to Mr. Brennan." The officer briefly ran a secret CIA prison in Thailand where accused terrorists Abu Zubayada and Abd al-Nashiri were waterboarded in 2002, an interrogation technique that simulates drowning, according to current and former U.S. intelligence officials. She was also a senior manager in the Counterterrorism Center helping run operations battling terrorism..

She also served as chief of staff to Jose Rodriguez and helped carry out his order that the CIA destroy its waterboarding videos. That order prompted a lengthy Justice Department investigation that ended without charges.

Instead of picking the female officer, Mr Brennan turned instead to the head of the CIA's Latin American Division, a former station chief in Pakistan who former officials said once ran the covert action that helped remove Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic from power. That program is regarded inside the CIA as a blueprint for running a successful peaceful covert action.

The former officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the CIA's operations publicly.

Women constitute nearly half of the agency's workforce but only about 30 per cent of what is known as the Senior Intelligence Service.

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