Torture master? Who is Gina Haspel, 1st woman to head CIA
Gina Haspel, born October 1, 1956 was a deputy CIA director before becoming the most powerful official at America’s main spy agency. She was one of the top intelligence officers to take part in the worst alleged abuses of Bush-era interrogation program, which renowned rights groups bluntly describe as a set of torture techniques.
In the middle of Washington’s ‘Global War on Terrorism,’ Haspel ran one of the first CIA facilities – later called ‘black sites’ – a prison in Thailand code-named ‘Cat’s Eye.’ It has been claimed that Al-Qaeda suspects were tortured there using waterboarding, in particular.
Back then, a Washington Post article mentioned a top-tier CIA official who was “directly involved in its controversial interrogation program” and had an “extensive role” in torturing detainees.
Notably, the Post’s piece did not reveal the person’s identity, only saying that the officer in question served as director of the National Clandestine Service – the CIA’s main branch in charge of human intelligence – on an interim basis. Later, the Intercept confirmed that the undercover officer was actually Haspel.
Apart from that, she also served as chief of staff to the infamous Jose Rodriguez, the head of the CIA Counterterrorism Center, and reportedly participated in the controversial destruction of interrogation videotapes that showed the torture of detainees at the prison she ran, as well as at other secret compounds.
Rodriguez even mentioned Haspel in his memoir, writing that it was she who “drafted a cable” to discard the gruesome footage, when he “took a deep breath of weary satisfaction and hit ‘send.’”
Haspel’s past has been the subject of a high-profile lawsuit by a European rights group. In 2017, the non-profit European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights asked German federal prosecutors to issue an arrest warrant for Haspel if she arrives in Europe. The request came as part of the case of Abu Zubaydah, a Saudi national citizen and senior Al-Qaeda member.
Attorneys for the rights group alleged that Zubaydah, who played a role in masterminding the 9/11 attacks, was waterboarded 83 times in August 2002. However, it later emerged that Haspel was not yet in charge of the ‘Cat’s Eye’ at the time. Wolfgang Kaleck, the group’s director, said: “Those who commit, order or allow torture should be brought before a court,” adding that this is “especially true for senior officials from powerful nations.”
According to the CIA website, Haspel joined the spy agency in 1985, having garnered “extensive overseas experience.” She also served as station chief in several of her assignments.
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