Gina Haspel, the veteran CIA undercover officer President Donald Trump picked on Tuesday to head the agency, is supported by many in the U.S. intelligence community but has faced criticism for overseeing a secret CIA prison in Thailand where detainees were tortured.
Intelligence officers who served with her, and congressional officials said that in 2002, during Republican President George W. Bush’s administration, she was responsible for the secret prison code-named “Cat’s Eye.” Two suspected members of the al Qaeda militant group were subjected to waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques at the facility.
Three years later, still during Bush’s presidency, she carried out an order to destroy videotapes of the waterboarding, which simulates drowning and is considered a form of torture, according to those people.
Haspel is generally held in high regard at the CIA, working as deputy director under Mike Pompeo, whom Trump nominated to be the next secretary of state on Tuesday after firing Rex Tillerson from the post.
If confirmed by the Senate, Haspel would become the first woman to lead the Central Intelligence Agency. But she could face close scrutiny in her confirmation hearings over her involvement in “black site” facilities, so called because their existence is unacknowledged by the U.S. government.
Her nomination faces an uncertain fate in the Senate, which Trump’s fellow Republicans control 51-49. She could be opposed by all the Democrats, and some Republicans may also oppose her, including Senator Rand Paul, who has called a news conference on Wednesday to discuss the nomination.