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 – at which time Haspel was in charge of the ‘Cat’s Eye’ detention facility. 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
Snowden: New CIA Head Might Face Arrest in EU Over Role in Torture Program
Former NSA employee and whistleblower Edward Snowden speculated on Twitter that the nominee for CIA director, Gina Haspel, could face arrest if she sets foot in the European Union because she allegedly was involved in a torture program at a secret CIA prison.
“Interesting: The new CIA Director Haspel, who ‘tortured some folks,’ probably can’t travel to the EU to meet other spy chiefs without facing arrest due to an @ECCHRBerlin complaint to Germany’s federal prosecutor,” Snowden tweeted, while providing a link to a European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights’ report on a criminal complaint filed against Haspel in 2017.
The ECCHR criminal complaint was filed with Germany’s federal public prosecutor on June 6, 2017. It was a follow-up to a complaint first filed in 2014, with previous follow-ups in 2015 and 2016.
In the complaint, ECCHR recalls that Haspel was the superior of the two notorious psychologists, James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, responsible for developing the torture program used on terror suspects at CIA secret prisons and at the Guantanamo Bay detention center. (Mitchell and Jessen were previously referred to with the Grayson Swigert and Hammond Dunbar.)
According to ECCHR, Haspel herself supervised the torture of Abu Zubaydah, arguably the most famous Gitmo prisoner, who is accused of preparing 9/11 terror attack, but who has never faced criminal court or official charges. In 2002, Zubaydah was held at a secret CIA prison in Thailand known as “Cat’s Eye,” or “Detention Site Green.”
“As head of the prison, Gina Haspel signed several cables (extracts printed in the executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee Report) to CIA headquarters concerning the torture of Abu Zubaydah,” the complaint reads. “One officially published cable from 15 July 2002 suggests that as Chief of Base, Gina Haspel was the only person with the authority to end the torture of Abu Zubaydah.”
“Gina Haspel failed to make use of this power,” it reads.
The report also notes that she attempted to destroy all records of torture or other evidence of her involvement in the program, which shows “that she was at all times fully aware of her involvement in the commission of crimes.”
The organization calls on German authorities to take “appropriate measures,” which include “issuing an arrest warrant” should Haspel travel to Germany or the Schengen Area.
Snowden also questioned whether Haspel represents “the values the US should be promoting,” and suggested the CIA start issuing uniforms decorated with “skulls and lightning bolts.”