Gina Haspel made history by becoming the first woman to head up the CIA. After she spent more than three decades with the agency, President Donald Trump selected her for the newly vacated position, calling CIA personnel “the most elite intelligence professionals on planet Earth.”
Here we’ll share with you just how Haspel made her way to the top CIA position. See why Trump said she’ll “never back down” (page 5) and how much she’ll earn per year as CIA director (page 7).
She was highly recommended
The New York Times identified two distinct story lines about Haspel. The first portrayed her as a 33-year CIA veteran who’d been serving as the agency’s deputy director. She had the support of former directors from the administration, many of whom are critics of Trump.
Next: The other, less positive story line
She has a controversial interrogation background
A second story line about Haspel paints a picture of an officer who led a “black site” CIA prison in Thailand following the Sept. 11, 2011 terror attacks. In 2002, when Haspel was in charge, officers performed waterboarding, cramped confinement, and sleep deprivation techniques on al Qaeda suspect Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri for 17 days, documents revealed.
The prisoner “cried,” “begged,” “pleaded,” and “whimpered,” but ultimately denied having any further information for interrogators. CIA personal ultimately concluded he was being truthful. The torture techniques he was subjected to have since been renounced by the CIA.
Next: Why she had the videotapes destroyed
She assisted in destruction of torture videotapes
The CIA captured its interrogations at the Thailand prison on video. In 2005, Haspel drafted a memo ordering the 92 tapes’ destruction under the direction of former CIA top operations officer, Jose Rodriguez. She believed their release would have posed a security risk to the officers involved.
She has since said she would not still support the tapes’ destruction, and she would not restart the now-defunct interrogation program, adding “experience is a good teacher.”
Next: Architect of the 9/11 attacks wanted to share info on her.
A 9/11 mastermind tried to step in
A mastermind behind the 9/11 attack on New York City’s twin towers sought to share six paragraphs of information about Haspel with the Senate as it considered her nomination. Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was captured and tortured by the CIA in 2003. Whether Haspel was involved in Mohammed’s torture is unclear.
A Guantánamo Bay military judge denied the request.
Next: What Trump thinks of Haspel
Trump said she’s “tough on terror”
The president picked Haspel for the job in 2017 when Mike Pompeo vacated the spot to become Secretary of State. “Our enemies will take note. Gina is tough. She is strong, and when it comes to defending America, Gina will never, ever back down,” Trump said at Haspel’s swearing-in. He praised her for years of “hunting terrorists” after the 9/11 attacks.
When critics brought up her interrogation background, Trump came to her defense. She’d come under fire for being “too tough on Terrorists,” he tweeted, adding “Win Gina!”
Next: How the Senate confirmation hearing went
The Senate confirmed her
The Senate confirmed Haspel as CIA director on May 17, 2018. Six Democrats voted in favor along with most Republicans, for a 54-45 vote. In her confirmation hearing, Haspel answered pointed questions about her values and priorities. She would not allow the CIA to undertake activity she deemed immoral, she said. When asked about Trump’s prior statement that torture “absolutely works,” she answered, “I don’t believe that torture works.”
Sen. John McCain of Arizona was one of three Republicans to oppose the nomination. (He did not vote, however, as he is at home battling brain cancer.)
Next: Her CIA director duties and salary
What the CIA director does
As CIA director, Haspel works directly with Trump as well as Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coates. Her duties include:
- Collecting intelligence through human sources and other means
- Evaluating (and communicating) intelligence related to national security
- Directing and coordinating collection of national intelligence outside the U.S.
- Performing any other national security intelligence functions directed by the president or national intelligence director
Haspel’s new position earns her $187,000 per year — an 8% pay raise over the $172,100 she pulled in as deputy director of the CIA.
Next: She hails from the Bluegrass State and went to school across the Atlantic.
Haspel’s personal background
Haspel is a native of Ashland, Kentucky, who spent much of her childhood overseas, as her father served in the U.S. Air Force. She attended high school in the United Kingdom. After that, she went on to earn bachelor’s degrees in 1978 from the University of Louisville in languages and journalism. Until the CIA hired her in 1985, she worked as a paralegal.
She was briefly married to Jeff Haspel, who served in the U.S. Army, but the two divorced before she joined the CIA.
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