Trump Defends CIA Nominee, Says She Is ‘Tough on Terror’

WASHINGTON (AP/Reuters) -
The seal of the Central Intelligence Agency at CIA headquarters in Langley, Va. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

President Donald Trump is defending Gina Haspel, his nominee to head the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), who has come under fire because of her involvement in detaining and brutally interrogating terror suspects after 9/11.

Trump said that Democrats want to defeat Haspel’s nomination because she is “too tough on terror.”

Trump wrote that 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!”

Haspel’s confirmation hearing is set for Wednesday. She would be the first woman to lead the CIA and is the first career operations officer to be nominated to lead the agency in decades.

Trump named Haspel to succeed Mike Pompeo, who became secretary of state last month.

Haspel’s nomination has encountered opposition over her role in a defunct program in which the agency detained and interrogated al-Qaida suspects in secret prisons overseas using techniques widely condemned as torture.

Former President George W. Bush authorized the Rendition, Detention and Interrogation Program after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Many details of Haspel’s work remain classified. Sources familiar with her career who requested anonymity said that at one point she was the chief of the CIA station in a country where harsh interrogations were used on at least one terrorism suspect.

Later, she served as chief of staff to Jose Rodriguez, the head of CIA undercover operations. In consultation with Rodriguez in 2005, Haspel drafted a cable ordering CIA officers to destroy videotapes of al-Qaida suspects being tortured.

Haspel’s supporters argue that while she drafted the cable, Rodriguez sent it without the approval of CIA Director Porter Goss and without informing Haspel that he would do so.

The destruction of the tapes is a key issue for Senate critics of Haspel, who complain that public agency disclosures regarding its interrogation programs have been inadequate.