With her promotion to director of the CIA, Gina Haspel becomes the first woman to hold that job. It’s a high profile position, but Haspel has been a pretty low profile person up until this point. So who will be running the government’s spy agency?
Haspel, who replaces new secretary of state Mike Pompeo, has been with the agency since 1985, spending much of her career undercover. She has received several awards, including the George H. W. Bush Award for excellence in counterterrorism and the Presidential Rank Award, the highest award in the federal civil service. She also has overseen the torture of some terror suspects.
A 2017 New York Times report says Haspel, in 2002, oversaw the torture of two suspects at a secret prison in Thailand and later was involved in the destruction of videotapes documenting that torture.
One of those prisoners 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, says the Times.
Haspel was picked to run the CIA’s clandestine operations unit in 2013, but Senator Dianne Feinstein, who was the senior Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee at the time, blocked the promotion because of Haspel’s history of torture.
Within the agency, though, Haspel is reportedly widely respected – and has support from members of both the Bush and Obama administrations. Where she stands personally on issues such as extreme interrogation techniques is an unknown, as she has not offered any public comments on policy, as you would expect for an undercover officer.