Gina Haspel, woman criticized for offshore interrogations, to be CIA No. 2

Haspel is a veteran of the agency’s undercover spy operations, joining in 1985 and serving in posts around the world

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A longtime CIA clandestine operations official reportedly involved in its much-criticized offshore interrogations after the 9/11 attacks was named number two at the US spy agency Thursday. Gina Haspel, who was the first female head of the Central Intelligence Agency’s clandestine service, was named deputy director of the overall organization under new Director Mike Pompeo.

Haspel is a veteran of the agency’s undercover spy operations, joining in 1985 and serving in posts around the world including a stint in the US embassy in London in the late 2000s. In 2013 she was named as acting head of the CIA National Clandestine Service, but was replaced within weeks – reportedly due to concerns over her senior role in the post 9/11 interrogation operations, which involved torture methods like waterboarding.

The Washington Post reported that year she “had run a secret prison in Thailand where two detainees were subjected to waterboarding and other harsh techniques.” That was where Al-Qaeda suspect Abu Zubaydah was interrogated and repeatedly water-boarded.

The Post said that Haspel was also involved in the 2005 destruction of the CIA’s videotapes of its “enhanced interrogation” sessions of several detainees in Thailand. Lawyers for al-Qaeda detainees had wanted the tapes for evidence in court cases.

Pompeo praised Haspel in a statement: “Gina is an exemplary intelligence officer and a devoted patriot who brings more than 30 years of agency experience to the job. “She is also a proven leader with an uncanny ability to get things done and to inspire those around her,” he said.

Three former CIA chiefs and other top intelligence officials including James Clapper, former Director of National Intelligence, also voiced their strong support for her in the statement. Haspel’s appointment comes amid concerns that the US intelligence services under new President Donald Trump could return to the harsh and outlawed tactics of secret arrests, renditions and torture.

Trump has said he thinks torture works but also said he will defer to Defense Secretary James Mattis on the issue; Mattis has said he is opposed to torture.

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