Donald Trump announced Gina Haspel as his pick to head the CIA, a nomination that keeps with the president’s practice of courting controversy in his appointments.
Haspel is currently number two at the CIA—and her rise proved controversial. In 2002, she was the director of a black site in Thailand where she oversaw the torture of terrorism suspects and ordered the destruction of videotapes documenting the torture.
Some Senate Democrats are already pushing back.
“Ms. Haspel’s background makes her unsuitable to serve as CIA director,” Ron Wyden of Oregon wrote in a statement Tuesday. “Her nomination must include total transparency about this background, which I called for more than a year ago when she was appointed deputy director. If Ms. Haspel seeks to serve at the highest levels of U.S. intelligence, the government can no longer cover up disturbing facts from her past.”
Sixteen years after the U.S. started torturing terrorism suspects, details remain shrouded in secrecy. But there is enough information to warrant serious questions, Katherine Hawkins of the watchdog group Project On Government Oversight tells Raw Story.
Hawkins says the Senate Intelligence Committee has to dig in to determine how deeply she was involved in activities like waterboarding.
“She may not have personally poured the water, but as Chief of Base she was the only person on site with the authority to stop it,” Hawkins said.
Haspel is slated to be investigated by the International Criminal Court for her involvement in black sites in Afghanistan and that a German watchdog group pushed prosecutors to indict her for her role in torture.
The ACLU hammered Haspel in a press release this morning, tying her to a “shameful” chapter in American history.
“Gina Haspel was a central figure in one of the most illegal and shameful chapters in modern American history,” the group wrote. “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. One man held at the secret prison she ran was waterboarded 83 times, slammed against walls, sleep deprived, and locked in a coffin-like box.”
Hawkins worries that senators will not be able to bring these issues up when discussing whether to confirm her.
“Senators can’t even ask about information on her Wikipedia page without being accused of disclosing classified information and jeopardizing their security clearances,” she said. “There has to be disclosure of what she did—and if that’s too damaging, she shouldn’t be the head of the CIA.”
In 2013, Haspel was due to lead the agency’s clandestine service. That was blocked by Senator Dianne Feinstein. There was enough information to stop Haspel’s rise then, Hawkins says, but it remains to be seen how this round will go.
“The question is whether the Senate Intelligence Committee is going to go into it,” Hawkins says.