The newly announced CIA deputy director, Gina Haspel, reportedly oversaw the torture of two detainees under former President George W. Bush and ordered video evidence of their interrogations destroyed.
Her ascent to the number two position at the agency is another signal that the new administration may take an even tougher stance on national intelligence than previous ones, coming just after President Donald Trump confirmed his belief that torture "works" as an interrogation tactic, and the confirmation of Mike Pompeo—who once called agents who tortured detainees "patriots"—as CIA director.
The New York Times reports that Haspel
played a direct role in the CIA's "extraordinary rendition program," under which captured militants were handed to foreign governments and held at secret facilities, where they were tortured by agency personnel.
The CIA's first overseas detention site was in Thailand. It was run by Ms. Haspel, who oversaw the brutal interrogations of two detainees, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri.
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Pompeo testified in his confirmation hearings that he would not seek to reauthorize torture—although his written answers contradicted his pledges to senators—so his decision to elevate Haspel is "likely to be seen by the CIA's rank-and-file as a vote of confidence in their work from their new director," the Times' Matthew Rosenberg writes.
Zubaydah, known alternately as the CIA's "guinea pig," the "torture poster child," and the "ghost prisoner," was abducted in Pakistan, transferred to U.S. authorities in 2002, and has remained at the Guantánamo Bay military prison in Cuba since 2006 without trial. While in CIA custody, he was infamously waterboarded 83 times in just one month, among other tortures, including being slammed into walls and held in a box for more than 11 straight days.
The sessions were videotaped and the tapes stored at the CIA facility in Thailand until 2005, when they were ordered to be destroyed.
"By then," Rosenberg writes, Haspel "was serving at CIA headquarters, and it was her name that was on the cable carrying the destruction orders."
Christopher Anders, the deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Washington, where a lawsuit against the architects of the torture program is currently underway, told Rosenberg that Pompeo must "explain to the American people how his promotion of someone allegedly involved in running a torture site squares with his own sworn promises to Congress that he will reject all forms of torture and abuse."