National Security & Defense

Trump’s Pick to Head the CIA Already Facing Opposition over Her Role in Running CIA Black Site

Gina Haspel speaks at the 2017 William J. Donovan Award dinner. (YouTube Screengrab via OSS Society)
Gina Haspel is alleged to have presided over a CIA black site where a falsely accused terrorist was waterboarded, and to have covered up the evidence of the suspect’s interrogation.

Update: ProPublica issued a correction Thursday concerning their February 2017 report, which falsely indicated Gina Haspel presided over the torture of suspected terrorist Abu Zubaydah. The correction states that Haspel did not take over as chief-of-base at the Thailand “black site” until after Zubaydah’s interrogation had concluded.

President Donald Trump’s selection to succeed Mike Pompeo as director of the CIA has already elicited opposition from Democratic lawmakers concerned about her role in presiding over the torture of a suspected al-Qaeda terrorist at a so-called black site in Thailand in 2002.

Gina Haspel, who is currently the agency’s deputy director, would become its first female director if confirmed. She joined the CIA in 1985 and subsequently ran a secret prison in Thailand where terror suspects were waterboarded and, in some cases, subjected to other forms of “enhanced interrogation.”

Recently declassified cables reviewed by ProPublica reveal Haspel directed CIA colleagues to destroy surveillance tapes which depicted the agency’s interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, a Palestinian wrongly suspected of holding a high-level position in al-Qaeda. Zubaydah, 31, was waterboarded, slammed against a wall, and confined in a small coffin-like box for hours at the Thailand site.

Haspel, who was in charge of the site at the time, had the tapes destroyed years later once she had risen in the ranks and it had become clear that Zubaydah was not a high-ranking al-Qaeda member. Haspel’s conduct was condemned as “obstruction” by 9/11 commission chairs Lee Hamilton and Thomas Keane; a grand jury later investigated the incident but no charges were ever filed.

Senator Ron Wyden (D., Ore.), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, objected to Haspel in a Tuesday statement released hours after Trump announced he would nominate her to succeed Mike Pompeo, who was tapped to replace Rex Tillerson as secretary of state.

“Ms. Haspel’s background makes her unsuitable to serve as CIA director,” Wyden said. “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.”

Senator Tammy Duckworth (D., Ill.), an Iraq War combat veteran who opposed Pompeo’s confirmation, said Haspel has done “much worse.”

“Not only did she directly supervise the torture of detainees, but she also participated in covering it up by helping to destroy the video evidence,” Duckworth said. “Her reprehensible actions should disqualify her from having the privilege of serving the American people in government ever again, but apparently this president believes they merit a promotion. I couldn’t disagree more.”

In addition to her time overseeing the secret prison in Thailand, Haspel has served as station chief on multiple assignments and, upon returning to Washington, became deputy director of the clandestine service and chief of staff for the director, among other roles.

Her appointment was praised by a number of Republican lawmakers, including Senator Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) and Senator Richard Burr (R., N.C.), who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee and said he would move to confirm her quickly.

Most Popular

Politics & Policy

The Sinking Collusion Ship

The entire Trump-Russia collusion narrative was always implausible. One, the Washington swamp of fixers such as Paul Manafort and John and Tony Podesta was mostly bipartisan and predated Trump. Two, the Trump administration’s Russia policies were far tougher on Vladimir Putin than were those of Barack ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Problem with Certainty

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is Jonah Goldberg’s weekly “news”letter, the G-File. Subscribe here to get the G-File delivered to your inbox on Fridays. Dear Reader (Including those of you having this read to you while you white-knuckle the steering wheel trying to get to wherever you’re going for the ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Worst Cover-Up of All Time

President Donald Trump may be guilty of many things, but a cover-up in the Mueller probe isn’t one of them. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, attempting to appease forces in the Democratic party eager for impeachment, is accusing him of one, with all the familiar Watergate connotations. The charge is strange, ... Read More
World

Theresa May: A Political Obituary

On Friday, Theresa May, perhaps the worst Conservative prime minister in recent history, announced her resignation outside of number 10 Downing Street. She will step down effective June 7. “I have done my best,” she insisted. “I have done everything I can. . . . I believe it was right to persevere even ... Read More
PC Culture

TV Before PC

Affixing one’s glance to the rear-view mirror is usually as ill-advised as staring at one’s own reflection. Still, what a delight it was on Wednesday to see a fresh rendition of “Those Were the Days,” from All in the Family, a show I haven’t watched for nearly 40 years. This time it was Woody Harrelson ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Democrats’ Other Class War

There is a class war going on inside the Democratic party. Consider these two cris de couer: Writing in the New York Times under the headline “America’s Cities Are Unlivable — Blame Wealthy Liberals,” Farhad Manjoo argues that rich progressives have, through their political domination of cities such as ... Read More
Culture

The Deepfake of Nancy Pelosi

You’ve almost made it to a three-day weekend! Making the click-through worthwhile: A quick note about how National Review needs your help, concerns about “deepfakes” of Nancy Pelosi, one of the most cringe-inducing radio interviews of all time, some news about where to find me and the book in the near ... Read More
U.S.

America’s Best Defense Against Socialism

The United States of America has flummoxed socialists since the nineteenth century. Marx himself couldn’t quite understand why the most advanced economy in the world stubbornly refused to transition to socialism. Marxist theory predicts the immiseration of the proletariat and subsequent revolution from below. ... Read More