Saturday, July 21, 2018
Nation & World

Gina Haspel, Trump’s CIA pick, is agency veteran tied to use of brutal interrogation measures

President Donald Trump on Tuesday nominated CIA veteran Gina Haspel to be the spy agency’s next director, tapping a woman who spent multiple tours overseas and is respected by the workforce but is deeply tied to the agency’s use of brutal interrogation measures on terrorism suspects.

Haspel, 61, would become the first woman to lead the CIA if she is confirmed to succeed outgoing director Mike Pompeo, who has been nominated to serve as secretary of state. Haspel’s selection faced immediate opposition from some lawmakers and human rights groups because of her prominent role in one of the agency’s darkest chapters.

Haspel was in charge of one of the CIA’s "black site" prisons where detainees were subjected to waterboarding and other harrowing interrogation measures widely condemned as torture.

When those methods were exposed and their legality came under scrutiny, Haspel was among a group of CIA officials involved in the decision to destroy videotapes of interrogation sessions that left some detainees on the brink of physical collapse.

Trump announced the move on Twitter on Tuesday, saying that Pompeo would move to the State Department and that Haspel would "become the new director of the CIA, and the first woman so chosen. Congratulations to all!"

Jameel Jaffer, formerly deputy legal director of the ACLU, said Tuesday on his Twitter feed that Haspel is "quite literally a war criminal."

Haspel spent much of her 33-year CIA career in undercover assignments overseas and at CIA headquarters, including serving as the agency’s top representative in London and as the acting head of its clandestine service in 2013.

Current and former U.S. intelligence officials who have worked with Haspel praised her as an effective leader who could be expected to stand up to the pressures that Trump has often placed on spy agencies - including his denunciations of the intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.

Officials described Haspel as a consummate "insider" and said CIA employees would greet her appointment with some relief, because an intelligence veteran would be back in charge.

"The building will love the fact that she’s an insider," said Mark Lowenthal, a former senior CIA officer.

Pompeo, a former member of Congress who spent his early career in business, had no profile in the intelligence community apart from his leading role on a congressional committee investigating the terrorist attacks on a U.S. government facility in Benghazi, Libya. Career CIA officers have seen Pompeo as one of the most overtly political directors in the agency’s history and a staunch public defender of the president.

Haspel, by contrast, has almost no public profile. But she is a visible presence inside CIA headquarters, running day-to-day operations while Pompeo handles the public-facing aspects of the job, making speeches and media appearances, and meeting with the president.

Rumors of Pompeo’s departure have flared up several times in recent months, and Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., had often been mentioned as a leading replacement. Current intelligence officials reacted with alarm to that prospect. "Disastrous" is how one described a possible nomination of Cotton, who is widely seen as too political and inexperienced for the job.

Pompeo’s appointment inspired some of those same concerns, but he has been a staunch defender of the agency, and that has bolstered his credibility among career intelligence officers.

Pompeo also had a strong rapport with the president, a quality that always makes a director valuable to the rank-and-file. But it’s not clear that Haspel has the same close relationship with Trump.

Inside CIA, Haspel has advocated a more aggressive approach to overseas operations. She had also led the agency’s work on Russia, which could put her at odds with a president who has accused intelligence officials of trying to undermine his election by stating that Russia interfered in the 2016 election to help get Trump elected.

Her extensive involvement in a covert program that used harrowing interrogation measures on al-Qaida suspects resurfaced last year when she was named deputy director of the CIA after Trump had signaled as a presidential candidate that he would consider reestablishing agency prisons and resuming interrogation methods that President Barack Obama had banned. Trump never followed through on that plan, which was opposed by senior members of his administration including Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis.

Haspel ran one of the first CIA black sites, a compound in Thailand code-named "Cat’s Eye," where al-Qaida suspects Zayn al-Abidin Muhammed Hussein, better known as Abu Zubaida, and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri were subjected to waterboarding and other techniques in 2002.

An exhaustive Senate report on the program described the frightening toll inflicted. At one point, the report said, Zubaida was left "completely unresponsive, with bubbles rising through his open, full mouth."

Internal CIA memos cited in a Senate report on the agency’s interrogation program described agency officials who witnessed the treatment as distraught and concerned about its legality. "Several on the team profoundly affected," one agency employee wrote, "...some to the point of tears and choking up."

Haspel later served as chief of staff to the head of the agency’s Counterterrorism Center, Jose Rodriguez, when he ordered the destruction of dozens of videotapes made at the Thailand site.

Rodriguez wrote in his memoir that Haspel "drafted a cable" ordering the tapes’ destruction in 2005 as the program came under mounting public scrutiny and that he then "took a deep breath of weary satisfaction and hit Send."

The Justice Department spent several years investigating alleged abuses in the interrogation program and the destruction of the tapes, but no charges were ever filed.

When she was named deputy CIA director last year, the agency took the unusual step of soliciting testimonials from seven former top intelligence and congressional officials. Their statements of support were included in the agency’s release. Former CIA director Michael Hayden described Haspel as "a trusted friend, lieutenant and guide to the sometimes opaque corridors of American espionage."

Some believe she had been unfairly penalized for her role in counterterrorism operations that were launched after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and carried out with the legal approval of the Justice Department.

Haspel was passed over in 2013 for a permanent assignment as head of the CIA’s clandestine service, although agency officials said the decision was not driven by her connection to the prisons controversy.

The Post’s Julie Tate contributed to this report.

Comments
Honduran baby who appeared in U.S. court is back in dad’s arms

Honduran baby who appeared in U.S. court is back in dad’s arms

SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras — A 1-year-old boy who became a poster child for the U.S. policy of separating immigrants and their children was back in the arms of his parents Friday, five months after he was taken from his father at the U.S. border. Johan...
Published: 07/20/18
Israel passes law anchoring itself as nation-state of the Jewish people

Israel passes law anchoring itself as nation-state of the Jewish people

JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has long demanded that the Palestinians acknowledge his country’s existence as the "nation-state of the Jewish people." On Thursday, his ruling coalition stopped waiting around and pushed throug...
Published: 07/19/18
Musk apologizes for ‘pedo guy’ comment: ‘The fault is mine and mine alone’

Musk apologizes for ‘pedo guy’ comment: ‘The fault is mine and mine alone’

The latest development in the heated feud between Elon Musk and British diver Vernon Unsworth may be surprising to many: It was an apology from Musk.Late Tuesday night, the Silicon Valley billionaire took to Twitter, writing the apology many have dem...
Published: 07/18/18
Out of hospital, Thai boys recount moment they were found

Out of hospital, Thai boys recount moment they were found

CHIANG RAI, Thailand — The 12 boys and their soccer coach rescued from a cave in northern Thailand described the moment they realized they finally had been found, as they appeared at a news conference Wednesday after leaving the hospital where they h...
Published: 07/18/18
Who gets the embryos? Whoever wants to make them into babies, new law says

Who gets the embryos? Whoever wants to make them into babies, new law says

When their marriage fell apart, the most contentious issue between Ruby Torres and John Joseph Terrell was the fate of their frozen embryos. There were seven in storage, created with her eggs and his sperm before Torres underwent chemotherapy and rad...
Published: 07/18/18
Bodies of 95 black forced-labor prisoners from Jim Crow era unearthed in Sugar Land after one man’s quest

Bodies of 95 black forced-labor prisoners from Jim Crow era unearthed in Sugar Land after one man’s quest

Today the city of Sugar Land is a sprawling suburb southwest of Houston, home to Imperial Sugar Co., shopping malls and endless cul-de-sacs. But, more than a century ago, it was a sprawling network of sugar cane plantations and prison camps. Sugar La...
Published: 07/18/18
Trump says he misspoke on Russia meddling

Trump says he misspoke on Russia meddling

WASHINGTON — Blistered by bipartisan condemnation of his embrace of a longtime U.S. enemy, President Donald Trump sought Tuesday to "clarify" his public undermining of American intelligence agencies, saying he had misspoken when he said he saw no rea...
Published: 07/17/18
Trump returns from summit with Putin to forceful criticism

Trump returns from summit with Putin to forceful criticism

HELSINKI — In an extraordinary embrace of a longtime U.S. enemy, President Donald Trump openly questioned his own intelligence agencies’ firm finding that Russia meddled in the 2016 U.S. election to his benefit, seeming to accept Russian President Vl...
Published: 07/17/18
Summit snippets

Summit snippets

No dirt on TrumpRussian President Vladimir Putin rejected allegations that Moscow collected compromising materials on President Donald Trump or his family. Putin, a former KGB agent, scoffed at the notion that the Russian security services try to gat...
Published: 07/16/18
Trump questions U.S. on 2016 intel

Trump questions U.S. on 2016 intel

HELSINKI — President Donald Trump stood next to President Vladimir Putin of Russia on Monday and publicly challenged the conclusion of his own intelligence agencies that Moscow interfered in the 2016 presidential election, wrapping up what he called ...
Published: 07/16/18