Gina Haspel got nominated on March 13th, 2018, by President Trump to be the new CIA Director, and as many presidential decisions, this one was sharply criticized by the public and several members of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
The reasons? It’s been reported that Gina Haspel was involved in the unauthorized destruction of many CIA interrogation tapes, proofs that documented agents torture against detainees.
This story seems like a shocking Homeland episode, but it is real.
Gina Haspel’s Biography
But first, let’s talk about a little about Haspel’s life. She was born in 1956 in Kentucky, she attended high school in the UK and came back to get a BA degree in languages and journalism (University of Kentucky and University of Louisville).
She worked as a civilian library coordinator and paralegal until she was hired by the CIA in 1985. Since that year, she followed a professional trajectory focused mainly on European, Russian and Eurasian operations.
However, there are some gaps in that timeline of hers; the CIA released a document that summarizes part of her career but ignores around 30 short-term temporary duties, of course, this is a security measure, but giving the nature of some of her previous jobs, people want to know more.
The Destruction of the Tapes
Getting to the point, Haspel has been pointed as a magnificent agent; she has served more than 30 years as Deputy Director of the National Clandestine Service, Deputy Director of the National Clandestine Service for Foreign Intelligence and Covert Action, and Chief of Staff for the Director of the National Clandestine Service.
The destroyed tapes everyone is talking about were real, they were destroyed in 2005 by Haspel but it wasn’t her will, she was following orders from José Rodríguez, the then director of the clandestine service.
The critics still went hard on her, because the tapes, apparently, proved CIA’s torture methods while interrogating suspects; so last month, the agency released an internal memorandum, written in 2011, of Haspel’s acting on this matter, basically concluding that she did nothing wrong and that the tapes’ destruction wasn’t her idea.
Torture in Thailand
So, maybe she didn’t “want” to destroy this torture evidence, but things get blurry from this point on. Apparently, some of the tapes included evidence of two famous torture cases, explained in the following lines.
In 2002, Haspel ran a secret CIA “black site” prison in Thailand; wrongly, some sites assured she had taken over control of this black site while strong cases of abuse like Abu Zubaydah’s and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri’s, but apparently she was only in charge of the place when the last one was tortured.
This black site was a nest for interrogating al Qaeda suspects, such as the ones mentioned before. Abu Zubaydah declared that he had spent the last 14 years in Guantánamo under false accusations, but with daily torture.
The Saudi-born assures he was waterboarded 83 times, lost an eye in Thailand’s black site as consequence of physical abuse during several interrogations, was sleep deprived, isolated for weeks.
Al-Nashiri’s case is not so different; he was waterboarded so many times that he developed a phobia of water, he couldn’t even shower and suffered many mental breakdowns, including post-traumatic stress.
But this doesn’t end here, Fatima Boudchar was abducted by the CIA in 2004, she was in Thailand with her husband and she was pregnant, but that wasn’t an excuse for her being sleep deprived, chained, and repeatedly punched in the stomach.
Why was she kidnapped? She was the wife of a commander of the anti-Qaddafi rebel force that controlled Tripoli at the time. Even the UK formally apologized to them for giving the CIA wrong information that cooperated with her kidnap.
The Future of Gina Haspel
Gina Haspel may jump to the modern history books because she is the first female CIA Director, and she may have been an extraordinary agent, but her participation in this amount of torture stories can’t do something else than causing a revolt.
She already has the job, but accusations of her responsibility in those actions, even if she just knew and didn’t really participate, must define her new role in the agency.
So now the question is not if she did or didn’t participate in those “enhanced interrogation techniques,” the question now is what is she going to do with the cases that had already been proved? Will she do something to stop this kind of actions?
Some people consider waterboarding terrorist suspects is fine, because they harmed to the world, but many of these people weren’t guilty of anything, like Boudchar, many were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
So before saying they deserve it, consider the fact that even the greatest intelligence agencies in the world commit mistakes, and everyone is innocent until the contrary is proven.