Senate Intelligence Committee members Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) sent a letter to President Donald Trump last year voicing their concerns that Gina Haspel's “background” in the CIA torture program “makes her unsuitable for the position” of deputy director at the agency.
The information Wyden and Heinrich requested was never released, and now Haspel is line to take over the agency's headship.
Donald Trump’s choice for his next CIA director was involved in its infamous torture program, a history that is already beginning to complicate her confirmation before the only panel to thoroughly investigate torture: the Senate intelligence committee.
Haspel, whom under Pompeo became the agency’s deputy director, briefly ran the off-the-books prison in Thailand used as a torture laboratory for the earliest detained terrorism suspects. There, in 2002—including while Haspel ran the so-called black site—the man known as Abu Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times; stuffed into a wooden box barely bigger than a coffin; had his body shackled in painful contorted positions; and had his head slammed into walls.
In light of Haspel's rise in the ranks, Wyden is calling again for transparency regarding her role in the torture program:
“If Ms. Haspel seeks to serve at the highest levels of U.S. intelligence, the government can no longer cover up disturbing facts from the past,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), a member of the intelligence committee who opposes her nomination, told The Daily Beast in a statement Tuesday.
What is known about Haspel's role in the CIA's torture program?
For a short time she ran an off-the-books prison in Thailand, where some of the earliest suspected terrorists were held and tortured:
There, in 2002—including while Haspel ran the so-called black site—the man known as Abu Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times; stuffed into a wooden box barely bigger than a coffin; had his body shackled in painful contorted positions; and had his head slammed into walls.
Years later, Haspel drafted an instruction to CIA officers in the field to destroy videotapes of torturous interrogations at the site. Though the Justice Department later declined to bring charges, the destruction of the tapes was widely considered in human-rights circles to be a key moment in covering up the torture—and it prompted the Senate intelligence committee’s landmark 2014 investigation, which occurred amid the backdrop of the agency spying on the work product of the Senate investigators.
If Haspel is confirmed by the Senate, she will become the first woman to hold the position of CIA Director.