As the United States Senate Intelligence Committee grills nominee Gina Haspel with questions in order to determine if she should be confirmed as the next director of the Central Intelligence Agency, there is one important factor that is being ignored—neither the people who are confirming Haspel or the American public have access to information about the majority of Haspel’s history with the CIA because it is classified.
Haspel, 62, joined the CIA in 1985 and was named Deputy Group Chief of the agency’s Counterterrorism Center in 2001. She was then assigned to oversee a secret CIA “black site” prison in Thailand in 2002. The prison, code-named “Cat’s Eye,” was one of the locations where alleged Al-Qaeda members were detained and tortured.
In addition to overseeing the torture, Reuters reported that Haspel “carried out an order to destroy videotapes of the waterboarding” and other torture methods, after she was instructed to do so by the Bush Administration.
While Haspel was not mentioned by name, an anonymous female CIA official with her credentials was mentioned in a 2013 report from the Washington Post, which claimed that she was not chosen to lead the agency’s clandestine service, because of her direct involvement in its Bush-era torture programs:
“The officer, who is undercover, served as director of the National Clandestine Service on an interim basis over the past two months, and many considered her a front-runner to keep the post, which involves overseeing the CIA’s spying operations worldwide.
But she faced opposition because of her extensive role in an interrogation program that critics have said relied on torture to get information from al-Qaeda captives after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. She had run a secret prison in Thailand where two detainees were subjected to waterboarding and other harsh techniques. She later helped order the destruction of videotapes of those interrogation sessions.”
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The prospect of Haspel becoming the next director of the CIA has been criticized by a number of people who are concerned about her record. Senator Rand Paul threatened to filibuster after her nomination was announced last month. He said that his opposition to Haspel stemmed from her “direct participation in interrogation” and her “gleeful enjoyment at the suffering of someone being tortured.”
However, one of the most alarming problems about Haspel’s career is not just that she oversaw illegal torture programs, it is that the majority of her career with the CIA remains classified—leaving no way for the country to know exactly what she did, or to what extent.
The American Civil Liberties Union started a petition calling for the CIA to release Haspel’s full records before a confirmation hearing was held. The organization reported that while Haspel’s job title was listed in the Senate’s 2014 report on the torture methods used by the CIA on suspected al-Qaeda members after 9/11, “her name and important aspects of her wrongdoing are still blacked out, with many documents locked away entirely.”
“Gina Haspel is best known for running a “black site” torture prison in Thailand during the George W. Bush administration. The prison she ran was the first to test some of the CIA’s most brutal and criminal tactics—including waterboarding, beatings, starvation, and locking men for hours in coffin-like confinement boxes. Press reports place Haspel in charge of the prison when a man was waterboarded multiple times. These torture methods became a template for a program applied to scores of detainees held in a network of secret CIA prisons.”
Despite questionable highlights that raised serious questions about her work for the CIA, the majority of Gina Haspel’s record remains classified, making many Americans wonder how members of Congress can, in good conscience, confirm her to lead an agency when they are not allowed to know the full extent to which she helped the CIA prepare and execute some of its most ruthless torture programs.