New CIA Chief Likely to Face Questions on Torture

14 March, 2018

President Donald Trump has nominated Gina Haspel to lead the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

After dismissing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Trump nominated CIA chief Mike Pompeo to take the position of the nation's top diplomat. Haspel is currently serving as the Deputy Director of the CIA. Both nominations must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

Haspel would be the first woman to lead the spy agency in its history. However, the 61-year-old career officer is expected to face difficult questions before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Questions will likely include ones aimed at accusations that the agency used torture to get information from terror suspects in the early 2000s.

This photo provided by U.S. Central Command, shows Abu Zubaydah, date and location unknown
This photo provided by U.S. Central Command, shows Abu Zubaydah, date and location unknown

Between 2003 and 2005, Haspel supervised a secret CIA prison in Thailand. The prison held terrorism suspects including Abu Zubaydah and Abd al Rahim al-Nashri. Current and former U.S. intelligence officials said that a method called "waterboarding" was used on them. The method makes suspects feel like they are drowning. The method was used under the administration of then president George W. Bush.

Reports say Haspel helped carry out an order to destroy videos of waterboarding. The Justice Department investigated the order but it ended without anyone being charged with a crime.

Arizona Senator John McCain has often spoken against torture. He said Haspel must explain her part in the CIA's interrogation program.

McCain said, "Current U.S. law is clear in banning enhanced interrogation techniques." He went on to say that any nominee for the position of director of the CIA must promise "without reservation" to observe that ban.

President Trump has in the past voiced approval of enhanced interrogation methods including waterboarding.

Former CIA Director John Brennan has not said what part Haspel played in the interrogation program.

However, Brennan said Haspel had a "lot of integrity" and had carried out her duties "when asked to do difficult things in challenging times." The former director said he expects lawmakers to fully question her but said he believes she will be confirmed.

"Gina is a very competent professional who I think deserves the chance to take the seat," he said.

Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina is chairman of the Senate committee holding the hearing. He said Haspel has the "right skill set, experience and judgment" to lead the CIA.

Human rights activists have voiced opposition to the nomination.

Raha Wala is with the group Human Rights First. He said, "No one who had a hand in torturing individuals deserves to ever hold public office again, let alone lead an agency."

Haspel faced some scrutiny from rights groups in the past after she was named deputy CIA director. The European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, based in Berlin, called on German government lawyers to issue an arrest warrant for her. German federal officials did not act on the request because the case lacked a connection to Germany.

Last year, lawyers for three men in a civil legal case in Spokane, Washington wanted to speak with Haspel and other CIA officials. The men who brought the case said they had been tortured under the CIA program. However, a federal judge told the lawyers that the documents related to the program and the officials are protected.

Reports say that in April 2009 the administration of President Barack Obama gave U.S. officials involved in the interrogation program protection from legal action.

Haspel has spent her career working for government intelligence agencies in foreign posts and in Washington. Currently, she works with the director to oversee intelligence collection, analysis, cooperation with foreign intelligence groups and other activities.

I'm Mario Ritter.

Mario Ritter adapted this Associated Press story for VOA Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.


Words in This Story

interrogation –n. questioning someone sometimes harshly

enhanced –adj. increased in intensity, improved

reservation –n. expressing doubts, not fully convinced

competent –adj. having the necessary skills and abilities

warrant –n. a legal document from a court permitting police to do something

analysis –n. the careful, methodical study of something not easy to understand

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