Despite overseeing the torture of terror suspects at a black site in the early 2000s, Gina Haspel has today been confirmed as the first female head of the CIA.

By Joe McDonough

Posted on May 18, 2018

Veteran spy Gina Haspel has been approved as the next director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

She is now certain to become the Agency’s first ever female head.

US President Donald Trump heavily endorsed Haspel’s appointment in March, after he set in motion former director Mike Pompeo’s move to Secretary of State.

However, her nomination was widely condemned after it was revealed she oversaw a torture program in the early 2000s and played a part in the deletion of interrogation footage.

Earlier this month, Trump slammed the criticism of Haspel, saying she was being targeted “because she was too tough on Terrorists. Think of that, in these very dangerous times, we have the most qualified person, a woman, who Democrats want OUT because she is too tough on terror. Win Gina!”

Think of that, in these very dangerous times, we have the most qualified person, a woman, who Democrats want OUT because she is too tough on terror.

Fronting US legislators last week, Haspel vowed if elected to uphold the current ban on torture.

“My moral compass is strong. I would not allow CIA to undertake activity that I thought was immoral, even if was technically legal. I would absolutely not permit it,” she told the Senate Intelligence Committee.

“Having served in that tumultuous time, I can offer you my personal commitment, clearly and without reservation, that under my leadership, on my watch, CIA will not restart such a detention and interrogation program.”

Needing a simple majority, the vote finished 54-45 in the 61-year-old’s favour. The only absentee from the 100-member chamber was Republican John McCain, who is undergoing brain cancer treatment.

Trump issued a tweet congratulating her on the promotion.

Senator Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, which oversaw the nomination, explained his support for the 33-year Langley veteran.

“I believe she is someone who can and will stand up to the President, who will speak truth to power if this President orders her to do something illegal or immoral, like a return to torture,” he said in a Senate speech before the vote.

What plagued Haspel’s nomination

In the early 2000s, Haspel ran the United States’ first ‘black site’ (secret overseas prison) in Thailand, where she oversaw the torture of terror suspects Abu Zubayadah and Abd al Rahim al-Nashiri.

A 2005 US justice department memo revealed that Zubaydah had been waterboarded 83 times over a single month in 2002.

The two men linked to al-Quaeda, are currently locked up at Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba.

The New York Times reported she also drafted the cable ordering the destruction of videotapes of the interrogations, although the agency said her superior, Jose Rodriguez, had made the decision.

“I think she’s a particularly disastrous choice, being one of the principal actors” in the torture program of the Bush administration, Alberto Mora, the former general counsel for the US Navy and a senior fellow at the Harvard’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, told Al Jazeera.

“To hold her up as an exemplar, an individual whose career will serve as guidance to those who will join the agency in the future, is shocking.”