Among the announcements President Trump made this morning on Twitter (goodbye Rex Tillerson), he tweeted that he was promoting CIA Deputy Director Gina Haspel to the head of the intelligence organization. She would be the first woman to lead the CIA if she is confirmed to succeed outgoing director Mike Pompeo, who has been nominated to serve as Secretary of State.
Haspel is respected by the agency’s workforce but is deeply tied to the agency’s use of brutal interrogation measures on terrorism suspects.
Although the landmark announcement is a historical achievement for women in the intelligence community, it’s still problematic.
Haspel was in charge of one of the CIA’s “black site” prisons where detainees were subjected to waterboarding and other harrowing interrogation measures widely condemned as torture, according to The Washington Post.
When those methods were exposed and their legality came under scrutiny, Haspel was among a group of CIA officials involved in the decision to destroy videotapes of interrogation sessions that left some detainees on the brink of physical collapse.
CBS reported that Haspel has “extensive overseas experience” in outposts around the world. Her lengthy resume includes stints as the deputy director of the National Clandestine Service and deputy director of the National Clandestine Service for Foreign Intelligence and Covert Action.
Her promotion is supposed to reaffirm Trump’s harsh stance against terrorism. He’s made it clear that he supports torture as a means of extracting information.
Haspel’s vault into the CIA director’s chair could mean a return to those harsh techniques. She has yet to make any statements about how she plans to run the organization, but it already feels like one of the rare times where progress for women feels like a step back for humanity.