After dismissing Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State last week, Trump is looking to move Mike Pompeo, current CIA head, into that now vacant position. Gina Haspel is Trump's nominee to be the new head of the CIA, a controversial pick that has sparked renewed discussion about the use of torture by US intelligence agencies.
In the Know
Haspel is a longstanding employee of the Central Intelligence Agency where she has worked since 1985. She currently holds the position of Deputy Director.
After September 11, 2001, Haspel was put in charge of a CIA black site in Thailand nicknamed "Cat's Eye." The site had previously held two members of Al Qaeda who were tortured extensively while held there. Al Qaeda operative Abu Zubaida was waterboarded 83 times in one month, lost an eye, suffered forced sleep derivation, and sustained multiple other injuries.
In 2005, Jose Rodriguez, head of the CIA's clandestine service, ordered tapes recording waterboarding sessions to be destroyed; Haspel was in favor of the decision.,
In 2013, Haspel was nominated to head the National Clandestine Service but was denied the position because of her history with interrogation. The nomination was blocked in part by Senator Dianne Feinstein who will be called upon once again in the upcoming weeks to weigh in on Haspel as a potential CIA head. Senator Feinstein has stated her decision will be contingent on meeting with Haspel.
The European Center for Constitutional Human Rights has called for Haspel's arrest as a war criminal and filed a series of complaints against her with prosecutors in Germany. Though the Justice Department performed an internal investigation into Cat's Eye, no evidence of wrongdoing was ever brought forward. One former CIA employee who spoke out about the CIA's use of torture was investigated by the FBI and subsequently served 23 months in prison. Haspel has faced no charges.
Trump has previously made calls to have waterboarding reinstated and made statements such as "torture works." During her Senate confirmation hearing, Haspel will likely have to answer whether or not she would reinstate torture as part of interrogation methods used by US intelligence agencies if called upon to do so by Trump. Her confirmation hearing will also be the first public forum in which she will have to answer questions regarding her previous involvement in Cat's Eye.
Senator Feinstein has called for the declassification of documents related to Haspel's role in the CIA interrogation program. She says that Senators who will vote on her nomination must know the extent of her role in the CIA's use of torture. Senator Rand Paul tweeted that he would do "whatever it takes, including filibuster" to stop her nomination. John McCain has also called for the Senate to "scrutinize the record and involvement" of Haspel in one of the "darkest chapters of American history."
Those who worked with her at the CIA gave her the nickname "Bloody Gina."