New pick for CIA director considered a controversial choice – here’s why

New pick for CIA director considered a controversial choice – here’s why
Trump's pick for new CIA director facing opposition. (Photo by Olivier Doulier - Pool/Getty Images)

On Tuesday, President Trump announced his nomination of Gina Haspel to serve as the first woman in charge of the Central Intelligence Agency. But she could face opposition in her upcoming Senate confirmation hearings.

Fox News referred to Haspel as a discreet “spymaster” who’s been with the agency for 32 years. During her career, Haspel spent extensive time overseas, serving as station chief at facilities that imposed waterboarding on detainees during her tenure.

The CIA’s first overseas detention site was run by Haspel starting in 2002, and operated in Thailand. Referred to as a “black site” prison, the facility used waterboarding as a method to gain information from prisoners — a practice which President Bush eventually banned in 2006.

In 2005, Haspel also played a part in destroying waterboarding tapes made by the CIA.

Today, Senator John McCain criticized the decision to promote Haspel, saying “The torture of detainees in US custody during the last decade was one of the darkest chapters in American History. Ms. Haspel needs to explain the nature and extent of her involvement in the CIA’s interrogations program during the nomination process.”

Another Republican Senator, Susan Collins of Maine, said of Haspel, “She certainly has the expertise and experience as a 30-year employee of the agency, but I’m sure there are going to be some questions raised.”

Mixed reviews from Senate Democrats will also play into the hearings, with Senator Ron Wyden calling the concerns over Haspel’s past waterboarding and evidence destruction as “troubling.” But Senator Bill Nelson of Florida said Haspel’s oversight in Thailand shouldn’t be used against her, as waterboarding was “the accepted practice of the day,” adding that “as a 30-year professional in the CIA, I have much more comfort in that than putting someone in who is a politician.”

But Haspel’s nomination even garnered international attention. German prosecutors are currently considering the issuance of an arrest warrant for the nominee, citing an alleged violation of the European Convention on Human Rights for her involvement in the torturing of CIA detainees.

Haspel’s nomination comes as current head of the CIA, Mike Pompeo, was chosen by President Trump to replace outgoing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.