When President Donald Trump nominated Gina Haspel on Tuesday to be the next CIA director, he selected a seasoned intelligence officer with decades of experience, but also a key figure in the agency’s troubled legacy of using torture as an interrogation tactic.
Haspel, 61, would be the first woman to lead the nation’s top intelligence agency, a fact Trump highlighted in his tweet announcing her promotion, and the first CIA operator to run the agency since William Colby in 1973.
Haspel, who joined the CIA in 1985, has been described as a “seasoned spymaster” and currently serves as the agency’s deputy director, where she oversees intelligence collection, analysis, covert action and counterintelligence, according to her official CIA biography. She was selected by Trump to be deputy director and appointed to that post last year by the agency’s director, Mike Pompeo.
Pompeo was picked Tuesday to become secretary of state after Trump fired Rex Tillerson.
Haspel has had a storied career as an intelligence officer with several stints overseas and several top positions in Washington, including acting deputy director of the National Clandestine Service, a section in the CIA. She also served as a senior official in London and deputy director of the CIA’s Russia Group.
Former colleagues told NBC News she had a conventional, hardline view of Russia as a dangerous adversary.
A focal point of her career is her involvement in the CIA’s controversial interrogation program, where enhanced interrogation techniques, such as waterboarding and sleep deprivation, were used. Trump has publicly supported using harsh techniques. “I’d bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding,” he said at a GOPpresidential primary debate in 2016.