Controversial nominee for top CIA post

Gina Haspel, the veteran CIA undercover officer President Donald Trump has picked to head the agency, has support within the US intelligence community but has faced criticism for overseeing a secret CIA prison in Thailand.
Ms Gina Haspel
Ms Gina Haspel

WASHINGTON • A CIA veteran who ran one of the agency's "black site" prisons before advancing to the spy service's upper ranks to become deputy CIA director has now been nominated by the US President to lead the CIA.

Ms Gina Haspel, 61, spent much of her 33 years in the CIA in undercover assignments overseas and at headquarters, including serving as the agency's top representative in London and as the acting head of its clandestine service in 2013.

"Gina Haspel, the Deputy Director of the CIA, will be nominated to replace Director (Mike) Pompeo, and she will be the CIA's first-ever female director, a historic milestone. Mike and Gina have worked together for more than a year, and have developed a great mutual respect," US President Donald Trump said yesterday.

But her extensive involvement in a covert programme that used harrowing interrogation measures on Al-Qaeda suspects is likely to compound concern among human rights organisations. The programme was dismantled by then President Barack Obama in 2009.

Ms Haspel ran one of the first CIA black sites, a compound in Thailand code-named "Cat's Eye", where a Senate Intelligence Committee report found that Abu Zubaydah and other Al-Qaeda suspects were subjected to waterboarding, a form of simulated drowning, and other "special interrogation methods" widely considered torture.

She became embroiled in another controversy later, as deputy to Mr Jose Rodriguez, the head of the CIA's Counterterrorism Centre. He wrote in his memoir that in 2005, she ordered the destruction of dozens of videotapes of interrogations at the camp. For that, she was denied the job of deputy director of the National Clandestine Service.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 14, 2018, with the headline 'Controversial nominee for top CIA post'. Print Edition | Subscribe