President Trump announced Tuesday that Gina Haspel would be the first woman picked to lead the CIA. Her past is more than a little concerning.

Even when Haspel was named as the CIA’s deputy director last year, senators expressed concerns about her history as one of the key people involved in the CIA’s torture programs under the George W. Bush administration. In a letter to President Trump asking him to reconsider his appointment of Haspel in February of 2017, Senators Martin Heinrich (D-New Mexico) and Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) sent a separate classified letter, which may have included information about Haspel’s oversight of a CIA “black site” in Thailand.

When the Senate Intelligence Committee released its report on CIA torture, Haspel was named as one of the key figures involved in the torture of Palestinian detainee Abu Zubaydah. In addition to being waterboarded 83 times in one month (in which interrogators slowly drown a detainee as a means of forcing them to talk), Zubaydah was placed in a coffin-sized box for a total of more than 11 days, and an even smaller “confinement box” less than two feet wide, two-and-a-half feet deep, and two-and-a-half feet tall, for more than 29 hours. Also, insects were dropped into both confinement boxes.

According to the New York Times, the torture Haspel oversaw at the CIA black site in Thailand in 2002 was so severe, she ordered that nearly 100 tapes of the torture sessions be destroyed. While a criminal investigation ensued, no charges were issued against Haspel. Additionally, Trump’s new pick to head the US’s top spy agency was also one of the key architects of the “extraordinary rendition” program, in which detainees were handed over to foreign governments to be tortured in secret prisons.

Despite the Bush-era torture program violating established international law like the Geneva Conventions, nobody within the CIA has ever been prosecuted for torturing detainees, arguing they were simply following orders from superiors.


Michael Boone is a freelance journalist and columnist writing about politics, government, race, and media. He graduated from Texas Southern University’s School of Communication, and lives in Houston’s Third Ward.

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