UPDATE, March 16: Last night, ProPublica issued a major correction to a 2017 story about Gina Haspel’s involvement in the waterboarding of detainees at the Thai black site “Cat’s Eye.” The non-profit news organization (and the New York Times) had reported that Haspel oversaw the torture of detainee Abu Zubaydah, but ProPublic has now retracted that claim, saying that Haspel did not arrive at the site until after Zubaydah’s interrogation.
While it now seems Haspel was not in charge of the site during Zubaydah’s waterboarding, she did still reportedly oversee the torture of another detainee, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, and recommended that video evidence of so-called “enhanced interrogation” techniques be destroyed.
This morning, Donald Trump said goodbye to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, nominating CIA director Mike Pompeo to take his place. Gina Haspel, the deputy CIA director, has been nominated to replace Pompeo. She is, as the president noted in a tweet announcing the move, a female human:
She is also someone who, during her CIA career, oversaw brutal torture—and a subsequent cover-up—at a so-called “black site” in Thailand.
Haspel has served since February as the agency’s deputy director. In a New York Times story from earlier this year, she is described both as a “veteran widely respected among her colleagues” and as someone who took a central role in the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program, in which the U.S. government abducts and extradites its supposed enemies to black sites, where they are often tortured extra-legally outside its borders. Haspel ran the CIA’s first overseas detention center in Thailand, which was known as “Cat’s Eye” or “Detention Site Green.”
When Haspel was promoted to deputy director, she was glowingly endorsed by a number of prominent officials, including Obama administration appointees like former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. And yet, according to the Times:
The C.I.A.’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.
Mr. Zubaydah alone was waterboarded 83 times in a single month, had his head repeatedly slammed into walls and endured other harsh methods before interrogators decided he had no useful information to provide.
The sessions were videotaped and the recordings stored in a safe at the C.I.A. station in Thailand until 2005, when they were ordered destroyed. By then, Ms. Haspel was serving at C.I.A. headquarters, and it was her name that was on the cable carrying the destruction orders.
In June, a German non-profit human rights organization asked the country to issue an arrest warrant for Haspel, based on her role in directing the torture of Zubaydah. While Trump has been mostly silent on issues of torture since he was elected, he said during the campaign he would approve waterboarding, and “a hell of a lot worse.”