Trump names Gina Haspel deputy CIA director, raising questions about torture

Trump taps veteran CIA officer for deputy director
(Image credit: Olivier Doulier - Pool/Getty Images)

On Thursday, President Trump named Gina Haspel, a longtime officer in the CIA's clandestine services, as the CIA's deputy director, putting her second-in-command below Director Mike Pompeo. The promotion was greeted enthusiastically within the CIA, as the elevation of a veteran officer signaled confidence in the spy agency. Trump himself focused on the little crack he claimed to have made in the glass ceiling:

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But Haspel's appointment was also greeted warily by opponents of torture and Bush-era "enhanced interrogation" techniques, The New York Times reports. After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Haspel played a key role in the "extraordinary rendition program," where suspected terrorists were abducted and handed over to foreign governments for torture in secret "black site" prisons by CIA officers or contractors. The Times recounts:

The CIA's first overseas detention site was in Thailand. It was run by Ms. Haspel, who oversaw the brutal interrogations of two detainees, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. Mr. Zubaydah alone was waterboarded 83 times in a single month, had his head repeatedly slammed into walls and endured other harsh methods before interrogators decided he had no useful information to provide. The sessions were videotaped and the recordings stored in a safe at the CIA station in Thailand until 2005, when they were ordered destroyed. By then, Ms. Haspel was serving at CIA headquarters, and it was her name that was on the cable carrying the destruction orders. [The New York Times]

The CIA said that Jose Rodriguez, Haspel's boss at the time, had ordered the destruction of the tape, but when she was up for Rodriguez's job as head of clandestine services, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) blocked the promotion over her destruction of evidence and ties to torture. Democrats were still unenthusiastic about her elevation to deputy director, but Republicans were pleased. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif) said Haspel had "impressed us with her dedication, forthrightness, and her deep commitment to the intelligence community."

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Trump has said he believes torture works and has floated reopening the black sites. Former President Barack Obama, who closed them down and banned the use of torture, picked as his final CIA director John Brennan, who was No. 3 at the CIA when the agency began "enhanced interrogations." You can read more about Haspel at The New York Times.

Update: A bit of extra context: Haspel is actually the second woman to be CIA deputy director, after Avril Haines, who served from 2013-15, and was tapped by former President Barack Obama.

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