Editor's note: After this article was published, ProPublica retracted the specific claims that Gina Haspel "was in charge of a secret prison in Thailand during the infamous interrogation of an al Qaeda suspect" and that she "mocked the prisoner's suffering." The publication stood by its other torture-related reporting on Haspel. Our original report appears below:
Gina Haspel, President Trump's newly-minted nominee to head the CIA, was directly involved in waterboarding and torturing, a ProPublica investigation found. The subject was a man believed to be an al Qaeda leader, and the torture apparently took place while Haspel was working under the Bush administration.
Haspel led the charge at a "black site" in Thailand, a secret prison where the CIA interrogated suspects. In 2002, Haspel oversaw the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, who was waterboarded 83 times in one month. "They slammed him against a wall, confined him for hours in a coffin-like box, and deprived him of sleep," ProPublica wrote in its report, published last year and resurfaced Tuesday. In the end, Zubaydah was found not to be associated with al Qaeda after all.
In addition to her prominent role at the black sites, Haspel reportedly pushed to destroy tapes that held video recordings of the torture. After being promoted to a more senior position, Haspel drafted an order to shred the tapes, ProPublica reported, and they were eventually destroyed without approval from the White House or Justice Department. The cover-up led the Senate Intelligence Committee to launch a probe into the torture program.
A CIA spokesperson denied the allegations about Haspel, telling ProPublica that "nearly every piece of the reporting that you are seeking comment on is incorrect in whole or in part."
On Tuesday, Trump tapped Haspel to lead the CIA, following his nomination of current director Mike Pompeo to replace Rex Tillerson as secretary of state. In his announcement, Trump praised Haspel's working relationship with Pompeo — but when Haspel was first chosen as Pompeo's second-in-command, her nomination sparked anger from human rights activists and lawmakers alike, including Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), who penned a letter to Trump urging him to reconsider his choice, citing her "background."
Read more about Haspel at ProPublica.