Gina Haspel, who is accused of overseeing torture interrogation cases in a “black site” in Thailand, is now the head of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, after President Donald Trump appointed Mike Pompeo as the new secretary of state following the sacking of Rex Tillerson.
Haspel became the CIA's deputy chief in 2017 despite multiple accusations linking her to torture cases as an undercover official.
She was responsible for the CIA's first overseas detention center in Thailand, known as Cat's Eye base or Detention Site Green, where suspects Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim Nashiri were brutally interrogated in 2002 for their alleged involvement in the al-Qaida network.
According to the Intelligence Committee's investigation, Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times and slammed into walls between Aug. 4 and 23, 2002. He was beaten so brutally he lost consciousness with water bubbling up from his lungs that doctors had to revive him. He also lost sight in his left eye before interrogators decided he didn't have any valuable information.
Zubaydah's torture was videotaped and stored in Thailand until 2005, when Haspel and Jose Rodriguez, then director of operations and head of the National Clandestine Service, ordered the footage be destroyed without previous consultation or authorization by the U.S. Congress. Al-Nashiri's torture tape was also destroyed.
In June 2017, the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights filed a lawsuit to German federal prosecutors against Haspel for her involvement in the Thailand torture cases. The complaint states that psychologist James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen were the only two people authorized to contact Zubaydah, and that they were under Haspel's supervision.
But during the first years of the new “war on terror” that started after the Sept. 11, 2001 events, the George Bush administration considered waterboarding and other torture interrogation techniques to be legal.
Haspel became Rodriguez' chief of staff in 2003, who back then was the director of the Counterterrorism Center. As chief of staff, Haspel ran programs that commonly used torture methods on suspects, including sleep deprivation, coffins and waterboarding to conduct brutal interrogations.
According to John Sifton from Human Rights Watch, Haspel was also one of the senior officials running the Rendition, Detention and Interrogation (RDI) CIA program, which had the aim of kidnapping suspects all around the world and handing them to other countries for interrogation, which more than often also including torture.
U.S. President Donald Trump has said multiple times he thinks that torture works and has vowed to bring waterboarding back. Trump's policy is reflected in the decision to make Haspel first Deputy Director and then Director of the U.S. intelligence agency.
"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," said Senator Ron Wyden, a Democratic member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
And Mike Pompeo as the new Secretary of State doesn't inspire much hope either. The former CIA director supports waterboarding and other intense interrogation techniques, saying they “don't even constitute torture” and praising “patriots” who have used such methods to counter terrorism.
Other advocates of waterboarding deny the method is a kind of torture, and even call it “enhanced interrogation.”
Haspel's position has yet to be ratified by the Senate.