Who is Gina Haspel, CIA’s first woman director?
US President Donald Trump was pleased to see yet another of his nominee getting appointed to a plum official post - this time as Gina Haspel, who went on to grab the post of the director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) on May 17 and became the first woman to do so.
Haspel, however, did not find it easy as concerns were raised over her role in ruthless treatment of suspected terrorists held after the 9/11 attacks. Haspel herself also wanted to withdraw her nomination recently in the face of the concerns but somehow continued to win a confirmation from the Senate by 54-45.
Who is Gina Haspel?
After Trump went for former CIA director Mike Pompeo as the US secretary of state to replace Rex Tillerson, the position became vacant and he nominated Haspel to fill it. Haspel, 61, is associated with the CIA for three decades now and has built her career as an operative, functioning overseas as a head spy in secret torture cells. She became the first operator of the CIA to lead it since William Colby in the early 1970s.
Born in Ashland, Kentucky, US in October 1956, to a US Air Force officer, Haspel began her career with the CIA in 1985. She served in various directorial capacities, including at the National Clandestine Service. She also worked as the chief of staff for former Counterterrorism Center director Jose Rodriguez and was appointed as the deputy director of the CIA by Trump in February last year.
Haspel is quite an achiever with a number of high-profile awards and medals, including a Presidential Rank Award and George H W Bush Award, to her credit.
Personally, Gina was married to Jeff Haspel in 1976 but the marriage broke by 1985.
What's the controversy over Haspel?
In 2002, months after 9/11, Haspel was in charge of a covert CIA facility which imprisoned terror suspects in Thailand.
In declassified intelligence of the CIA, it was said that Haspel played a big role in the brutal handling of suspected al Qaeda terrorist Abu Zubaydah who even lost an eye because of extensive torture, according to Biography.com.
Haspel even allegedly ordered destruction of the video of the interrogations of Zubaydah and his mate Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the website said.
However, a report in New York Times said in March this year that Haspel did not see the torture of Zubaydah.
Haspel faced a massive backlash over these reports and was even called "quite literally a war criminal" by a former top official of American Civil Liberty Union, according to Biography.com. As recently as 2017, the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights asked Germany to authorise an arrest warrant against Haspel for her role in Zubaydah's torture. US-based Centre for Constitutional Rights also felt the same about Haspel, according to the website.
There have been voices in the Senate, too, over Haspel's appointment. Ailing Senator John McCain said she had the responsibility to explain the "nature and extent of her involvement" in the CIA's interrogation during receiving the confirmation.
Republican Senator like Richard Burr, however, supported Haspel saying she had the "right skill set, experience and judgment" as the leader of the CIA.