Trump picks controversial figure Haspel as new CIA chief

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Gina Haspel, a veteran CIA clandestine officer picked by President Donald Trump on Tuesday to head the CIA, is a controversial figure, backed by many in the U.S. intelligence community but regarded warily by some in Congress for her involvement in the agency’s“black site” detention facilities.Gina Haspel, a veteran CIA clandestine officer.  Haspel was selected as the agency’s new director after the Republican president fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and chose current CIA Director Mike Pompeo as Tillerson’s replacement.U.S. officials said that while Haspel was generally held in high regard at the CIA, her nomination raised the unwelcome prospect of greater congressional and media scrutiny of officers who are more comfortable in the dark than in the spotlight.  When she was named deputy director last year, intelligence officers who served with her and congressional officials said that in 2002, during Republican former President George W. Bush’s administration, she ran a secret CIA prison in Thailand codenamed“Cat’s Eye.” Two suspected members of the al Qaeda militant group were subjected to waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques at the facility. Three years later, still during Bush’s presidency, she helped carry out an order to destroy videotapes of the waterboarding, which simulates drowning and is considered a form of torture, according to those people.Such facilities are called“black sites” because their existence is unacknowledged by the U.S. government.  Senator Ron Wyden, a Democratic member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said on Tuesday he opposed the nominations of both Pompeo and Haspel. “Ms. Haspel’s background makes her unsuitable to serve as CIA director,” Wyden said.“Her nomination must include total transparency about this background, which I called for more than a year ago when she was appointed deputy director. If Ms. Haspel seeks to serve at the highest levels of U.S. intelligence, the government can no longer cover up disturbing facts from her past.” “Haspel is a particularly controversial choice, given her reported past involvement in torture at CIA black sites. No one responsible for torture should be leading a federal agency, period,” said Rob Berschinski, senior vice president of Human Rights First.“The Senate should use her confirmation process to send a strong signal about where this country stands on correcting the mistakes of the past.”