Donald Trump defends his pick to run the CIA, Gina Haspel, after she offers to withdraw over ‘torture’ role

Donald Trump has defended his nominee to lead the CIA after she offered to withdraw over questions about her role in the agency’s interrogation unit.

The US president said Gina Haspel had "come under fire because she was too tough on terrorists".

Ms Haspel, who will be grilled by Senators during her confirmation hearing on Wedneday, has now decided not to withdraw after receiving encouragement from Mr Trump’s key aides.

The 61-year-old was nominated for the top position after Mike Pompeo, the former CIA director, was appointed secretary of state.  If confirmed, she will be the first woman to lead the CIA. 

Mike Pompeo, the former director of the CIA, greets staff in his new role at the State DepartmentCredit:
Getty Images

CIA colleagues have described Ms Haspel as "widely respected" within the agency.

However, she faces difficult questions about her involvement in a George Bush-era extreme interrogation unit and the Republicans’ slim 51-49 majority in the Senate makes her confirmation uncertain.

Ms Haspel is a career spymaster, spending most of her 33 years at the CIA working undercover until her appointment as deputy director last year. 

She once ran a secret prison in Thailand and was involved in destroying videos of terror suspects being waterboarded.

Ms Haspel was in charge of the "black site" when Al Qaeda suspects Abu Zubayadah and Abd al Rahim al-Nashiri were waterboarded in 2002.

She also helped carry out an order to destroy videos which led to a long investigation by the US Justice Department, although it ended with no charges being brought.

Mr Trump has previously indicated his support for waterboarding terror suspects, a practice which was introduced by President George W Bush and ceased over a decade ago.

Mr Bush authorised the Rendition, Detention and Interrogation Programme after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Click Here: cheap nsw blues jersey

Mr Trump’s longstanding support for the deputy director has led to speculation that he may be considering a reintroduction of waterboarding.

The president reiterated his strong support for Ms Haspel on Monday, tweeting: "My highly respected nominee for CIA Director, Gina Haspel, has come under fire because she was too tough on Terrorists. 

"Think of that, in these very dangerous times, we have the most qualified person, a woman, who Democrats want OUT because she is too tough on terror. Win Gina!"

Profile | Gina Haspel

It came after The Washington Post reported that Ms Haspel told White House officials she was interested in withdrawing during a meeting on Friday, reportedly fearing the Senate questioning could damage her reputation and the CIA’s.

She had been summoned to the White House to discuss her role in a programme that used techniques condemned as torture, including waterboarding al-Qaeda suspects.

Ms Haspel also reportedly feared a fate similar to that of Ronny Jackson, who withdrew his nomination for Veterans Affairs secretary when allegations of past misconduct circulated ahead of his Senate confirmation hearing.

Ms Haspel’s doubts prompted senior White House aides, including press secretary Sarah Sanders, to rush to meet her at the CIA’s headquarters in Langley, Virginia later on Friday in a bid to convince her to remain as the nominee.

It was not until Saturday that Ms Haspel agreed, according to the Washington Post. She has been preparing for her grilling in the Senate with mock questioning at the CIA’s offices.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *