CIA Director Nominee– A Biography of Gina Haspel [UPDATE]

“I supervised Gina Haspel when I worked at the Central Intelligence Agency. I found her to be smart, tough and effective. Foreign liaison services who have worked with her uniformly walked away impressed. Out of all of the chaos coming out of the White House these days, the one bit of promising news is the nomination of Haspel as the new CIA director.”

Former CIA Robert Baer

“If you do not withdraw the nomination of Gina Haspel and she is confirmed, this will cast a moral stain on the vast numbers of patriotic and ethically upright Americans who serve their country in the field of national security. It will also be a continuation of the steady erosion of human rights standards and rule of law post-9/11.”

Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) — MEMORANDUM FOR The President (March 25 2018)

“Gina [Haspel] has her defenders. Some on the left. Some who are very reputable people. They depict her as being very competent, thorough, and professional. But no one ever accused the Nazis of being sloppy, inept, and amateurish. They were accused of war crimes.”

Larry Beinhart

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, CIA Deputy Director Gina Haspel, and CIA Chief Operating Officer Brian Bulatao

Gina Haspel, the Deputy Director of the CIA, has been nominated to replace Director Pompeo. If confirmed, she will be the CIA’s first-ever female director. But her nomination has reopened old wounds and she will face a tough battle in the Senate.

Critics point out that Haspel was a key part of the CIA torture program and its illegal cover-up. Is it actually true? Because of her entire life spent in the CIA clandestine service — also known as the Directorate of Operations — very little is known about her life.

Here is a short biography of Gina Haspel based on information available in the public domain. Follow us on Twitter: @Intel_Today

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Gina Haspel has received many honors throughout her career, including the Intelligence Medal of Merit, a Presidential Rank Award, the Donovan Award, and the George H.W. Bush Award for Excellence in Counterterrorism.

She is the first woman to rise from the ranks to become Deputy Director—and now the first woman to be nominated as CIA Director.

She has extensive overseas experience and served as Chief of Station in several of her assignments.

In Washington, she has held numerous senior leadership positions at CIA, including as Deputy Director of the National Clandestine Service, Deputy Director of the National Clandestine Service for Foreign Intelligence and Covert Action, Chief of Staff for the Director of the National Clandestine Service, and in the counterterrorism Center.

Between October and December 2002, Haspel was assigned to oversee a secret CIA prison in Thailand, code-named Cat’s Eye, that housed persons suspected of involvement in Al-Qaeda. The prison was part of the U.S. government’s extraordinary rendition program after the September 11 attacks, and used enhanced interrogation techniques

Glenn Carle, a former undercover CIA operative who was involved in interrogating a suspected al Qaeda detainee, described her as “one of the architects, designers, implementers and one of the top two managers of the [CIA interrogation program].”

Former CIA general counsel John Rizzo, in his book, “A Company Man,” describes Haspel as having “run the [CIA] interrogation program.” [The Hill]

Her involvement in drafting orders to destroy videotapes of harsh interrogation techniques is undisputable. It is reported in the book “Hard Measures,” by Jose Rodriguez, her boss in the agency at the time, and former CIA spokesman Bill Harlow.

Rizzo also says in his book that Rodriguez and Haspel were “the staunchest advocates inside the [CIA] for destroying the tapes.”

Rodriguez, in his book, “Hard Measures,” says that Haspel drafted the order, which Rodriguez signed even though Rizzo says he had told him not to do so without approval.  [The Hill]

However, according to Robert Richer — a former associate deputy director of operations for the CIA — who was present for meetings among CIA senior staff when the tapes were discussed, the role of Gina Haspel may not be so clear-cut.

“Haspel provided rationale both for and against the destruction of the tapes to our mutual boss, the head of the clandestine service. She was as impartial, fair and balanced as anyone could be in those discussions.

It was only after two CIA lawyers assured us that the destruction of the tapes was both within the authority of the head of the clandestine service and completely legal that our boss, Jose Rodriguez, made the decision to order the tapes shredded. That was Rodriguez’s decision — but one I fully supported then and now.”  [Washington Post]

You will notice that this version of the events by Robert Richer does not square with the recollection of Former CIA general counsel John Rizzo. And this will be a real challenge for those who must decide on Haspel’s nomination. How do you judge someone when the facts are not available because they are still classified?

“Her nomination faces an uncertain fate in the Senate, which Trump’s fellow Republicans control 51-49. She could be opposed by all the Democrats, and some Republicans may also oppose her, including Senator Rand Paul.” [Reuters]

RELATED POST: US Senator John McCain : “CIA Nominee Must Explain Her Involvement in the Torture Program”

At this point, it is rather safe to assess that Haspel faces “a rocky confirmation hearing in the Senate and a narrow political path to secure the job.”

Meanwhile, on March 25 2018, two dozen former U.S. intelligence officers published a Memorandum urging President Trump to rescind Gina Haspel’s nomination to lead the CIA, citing torture that she oversaw while supervising a black site prison, as well as her role in destroying evidence. 

Haspel’s defenders claim that she was not the creator of the torture program and only served as a willing executor of a government initiative that she believed to be legal.

That may be true as no one has access to the CTC  documents that might prove otherwise. (Intel Today : Haspel was, at the time, the deputy in CIA’s Counter Terrorism Center)

Nevertheless, it does not provide her a free pass under international law, where it is generally referred to as the “Nuremberg Defense” — a thoroughly discredited “defense” that harkens back to the era of Nazi atrocities and those who attempted to justify them by claiming perpetrators were “just following orders.”

TIMELINE

Gina Haspel is single and she has no presence on social media. Foreign language: French

1956 October 1 — Gina Haspel was born in Ashland, Kentucky, the oldest of five children. Her father served in the Air Force, having joined at 17, and she grew up on military bases overseas.

— After graduating from high school in England, Gina Haspel returned home to attend the University of Kentucky, where she studied languages and majored in journalism.

—  she moved to Louisville her senior year for an internship and graduated with honors from the University of Louisville.

— After college, Gina Haspel worked as a contractor with the 10th Special Forces Group at Ft. Devens in Massachusetts. She ran the library and foreign language lab.

1985 — She joins the CIA

About 1988 —  First overseas assignment as a case officer in  Addis Abeba (Ethiopia), then run by Waldimir Skotzko.

1990 — (August) Second Secretary at the US Embassy in Ankara, Turkey

1999 — Executive assistant to James Pavitt, Director of Clandestine Operations (DDO)

2001 — (In the wake of 9/11) Haspel joins the Counter-Terrorism Center at the request of José Rodriguez

2002 — Between October and December 2002, Haspel was assigned to oversee a secret CIA prison in Thailand, code-named Cat’s Eye, that housed persons suspected of involvement in Al-Qaeda. The prison was part of the U.S. government’s extraordinary rendition program after the September 11 attacks, and used enhanced interrogation techniques such as waterboarding that are considered by many to be torture. According to a former senior CIA official, Haspel arrived as Station Chief after the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, but was chief during the waterboarding of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri.

2003-2005(?) — Haspel heads the CIA «Renditions and Interrogations Group» inside the Counter-Terrorism Center

2005 — Haspel was the chief of staff to Jose Rodriguez, Director of the National Clandestine Service. In his memoir, Rodriguez wrote that Haspel had drafted a cable in 2005 ordering the destruction of dozens of videotapes made at the black site in Thailand in response to mounting public scrutiny of the program. (“Haspel was the chief of staff when I (Robert Richer is a former associate deputy director of operations for the CIA) was the No. 2 person in the agency’s clandestine service in 2004 and 2005.”)

2005 October 31 —   CIA General Counsel John Rizzo raised concerns that a congressional proposal for an independent commission to investigate detainee abuse “would serve to surface the tapes’ existence,” and suggested trying to get permission from the CIA director to destroy them.

2005 November 4 — After the Washington Post broke the ‘CIA Thailand black site’ story, Thaksin issued heated denials and briefly threatened to sue the newspaper, according to a leaked State Department cable.

2005 November 9 — Jose Rodriguez writes: “The field (CIA station in Thailand?) sent in a cable reporting that the shredder had done its work.

2005 November 10 — CIA email appears to refer to Haspel’s role in the tapes destruction

2009-2011 — Haspel serves as the CIA’s Station Chief in London. Prestigious position traditionally held by very senior CIA officers. (Vaughn Bishop de 2007 à 2009, and later by Timothy Buch until Haspel.)

2011 – 2013 — Haspel serves as the CIA’s Station Chief in New York

2013 — (February 28, 2013 – May 7, 2013) John Brennan, then the director of Central Intelligence, named Haspel as acting Director of the National Clandestine Service, which carries out covert operations around the globe. However, she was not appointed to the position permanently due to criticism about her involvement in the Rendition, Detention and Interrogation program. Her permanent appointment was opposed by Dianne Feinstein and others in the Senate. Francis Archibald — Former COS in Malaysia and Pakistan — is picked to run the NCS.

2013 – 2017 — Haspel is back in London

2017 February 8 — Haspel is named Deputy Director of CIA

2018 March 13 — Gina Haspel named by Trump to be CIA director, replacing Mike Pompeo, who will replace Tillerson at State

Why Gina Haspel is a controversial CIA pick  

REFERENCES

Get to Know our Deputy Director — CIA Website

Qui est Gina Haspel, la nouvelle patronne de la CIA ? — TTU

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CIA Director — A Biography of Gina Haspel

CIA Director Nominee– A Biography of Gina Haspel [UPDATE]

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