Trump’s nominee to CIA previously ran a secret prison that tortured terror suspects

  • In this Jan. 10, 2018, photo, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson listens as President Donald Trump speaks during a cabinet meeting at the White House in Washington. Tillerson is out as secretary of state. President Trump tweeted this morning that he’s naming CIA director Mike Pompeo to replace him.  The president said he was nominating the CIA's deputy director, Gina Haspel, to take over for Pompeo at the intelligence agency. AP Photo/Evan Vucci

New York Daily News
Tuesday, March 13, 2018

President Donald Trump’s new pick to lead the CIA previously ran a secret prison, where human rights groups say she oversaw the torture of detainees.

Trump said Deputy Director Gina Haspel would replace incumbent Mike Pompeo, who the president tapped to be his new secretary of state on Tuesday after axing Rex Tillerson.

She’ll be the first woman to head the clandestine agency if the Senate confirms her nomination.

The nomination is expected to ruffle feathers, however, given her past assignments.

Haspel oversaw one of the CIA’s first so-called “black sites” — or secret overseas prisons — in Thailand, where detainees Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri were tortured in 2002, former agency officials and advocacy groups have said.

“Gina Haspel was a central figure in one of the most illegal and shameful chapters in modern American history,” Christopher Anders of the American Civil Liberties Union said in a statement.

“She was up to her eyeballs in torture, both in running a secret torture prison in Thailand and carrying out an order to cover up torture crimes by destroying videotapes.”

Human Rights First’s Raha Wala also panned the selection.

“To allow someone who had a direct hand in this illegal, immoral and counterproductive program is to willingly forget our nation’s dark history with torture,” Wala said.

Trump praised Haspel, however, as did Senate Intelligence Chair Richard Burr, R-N.C.

“I’m proud of her work, and know that my committee will continue its positive relationship with the Central Intelligence Agency under her leadership,” he said in a statement. “I look forward to supporting her nomination, ensuring its consideration without delay.”

Zubaydah, who eventually lost an eye during the tortures, and al-Nashiri were waterboarded dozens of times and videotaped.

Haspel’s role at the clandestine base came into focus in February 2017 when she was confirmed as deputy director of the CIA.

Declassified cables reviewed by ProPublica last year found Zubaydah lost consciousness during marathon torture sessions, which continued even though the “subject has not provided any new threat information or elaborated on any old threat information.”

Ex-CIA counterterrorism agent John Kirakou, who in 2012 pleaded guilty to disclosing classified information, wrote in a blog post last year “it was Haspel who oversaw the staff” at the Thai facility, where a pair of psychologists “designed the torture techniques and who actually carried out torture on the prisoners.”

The CIA reportedly stopped interrogating Zubaydah — who would vomit and urinate himself — once they realized he didn’t have any information.

U.S. intelligence agencies have stopped using some of those tactics on detainees.

By 2005, she was working at CIA headquarters in Langley and ordered the Thailand black site torture videos destroyed, the New York Times reported last year.

But the agency, which didn’t immediately return a request for comment, maintains her boss, Jose Rodriguez, ordered the tapes destroyed — not Haspel.

The FBI investigated the tapes’ destruction, and no one was ever charged. President Barack Obama closed the black sites in 2009 after he took office.

The Berlin-based European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights group, in June 2017, asked the German Federal Public Prosecutor to arrest Haspel over her “role in the torture of detainees.”

“Those responsible for designing and implementing the torture system — politicians, officials, intelligence agents, lawyers and high-ranking army officials — should be brought before a court,” the group’s general secretary Wolfgang Kaleck said in a statement. “With investigations into Deputy Director Gina Haspel, Germany can help ensure that rendition, abuse and unlawful detention do not go unpunished.”

Haspel joined the CIA in 1985, according to her biography on its website, and is rarely photographed.

She received the Presidential Rank Award, one of the highest honors for a federal civil servant, along with a handful of other intelligence awards.

She was passed over to run the CIA’s clandestine unit full time in 2013, a move Sen. Dianne Feinstein is believed to have blocked because of Haspel’s torture history. She was running the service on an interim basis until spring 2013.

Haspel was elevated to deputy director in February 2017 before being tapped Tuesday to lead the intelligence agency.


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